Child labour, mobile phones and gold supply chains
New research from Danish organisation DanWatch has found that no mobile phone manufacturers can guarantee that they do not use gold mined by children.
DanWatch has investigated the policies of Samsung, Apple, Research in Motion, Nokia and HTC and found that no company is monitoring their gold supply chains to the extent that they could ensure there is no child labour connected to the gold they use. They have no procedures to identify child labour in their gold supply chains.
The DanWatch report entitled "Child-mined gold in your gadgets?" describes how children from the age of 6 years work in small unauthorized mines in Mali and Ghana. These countries are among the largest exporters of gold in Africa.
In a statement on their website DanWatch said "It is normal in Mali and Ghana that children participate in the work in gold mines, risking both their health and lives. In the gold mines, children are digging deep, insecure mine shafts and work underground in shifts of up to ten hours. In Mali, it is estimated that between 20,000 and 40,000 children are working in gold mines, while there are no numbers available in Ghana. Worldwide, it is estimated that at least 1,5 million children are working in the gold mine industry."
Almost all mobile devices use gold and around seven percent of gold that is produced globally ends up in electronics such as mobile phones and computers.
An increase in the demand for gold has meant that the gold price has increased drastically the last ten years leading to a new gold rush in several African countries. Campaigners says that this increase in production is characterised by the prevalence of small, unauthorized gold mines where there is no monitoring of working conditions.
Child workers in the mines are at risk of mercury poisoning. The metal is used to extract gold from the ore. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and can cause chronic disabilities, especially in children, because their bodies are developing and therefore particularly vulnerable to heavy metal.
"DanWatch's investigation shows that it is difficult to trace the gold that is bought on the international gold market. But it also shows that brands are not even asking questions about whether there is gold from child labour in their products. And as long you are not making the effort of disclosing your value chain to ensure that one is not using child labour, one indirectly supports it, and you are not living up to the basic guidelines for social responsibility that stipulate that a company has to identify and address areas where its actions can have a negative impact on human rights," says director of DanWatch, Eva Hesse Lundström.
Child-mined gold in your gadgets? From Danwatch
This story has been added to our corporate database. The database powers all our live product guides, giving the score for each company on our rankings tables. Find out more about how we rate companies.
Register on the site to receive our free monthly email newsletter and keep up-to-date with all our research and campaigning.
Ethical Consumer on Google+