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  • Writer's pictureWhat is Happening in Congo?

Apple's Hypocrisy

Pretending to care for Black lives by honouring them, for profit, during BHM while

actively participating in the use of children in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Why the theatrics, Apple?

In honour of Black History Month, Apple has launched a black unity wristband sporting the colours red, green and black. Along with the wristband they’ve decided to bring to customers a variety of new and updated collections and exclusive content that aim to highlight and amplify Black creators, artists, developers, and businesses. With a gesture that appears to extend support to black people and creatives, why has Apple not changed their practices on how they extract minerals to make their products? Apple claims that they have chosen to amplify the voices of Black people, why does this not extend to the Congolese families that continue to work in deplorable conditions, resulting in the loss of life?

Taken by Siddharth Kara

Cobalt and coltan are two key components in the production of smartphones, both of which are found in the DRC. Congo has the world's largest reserves of cobalt, at some 3.6 million metric tons as of 2019. Cobalt is essential for rechargeable batteries, semiconductors, hard disk drives, and integrated circuits. In regards to coltan, Congo holds approximately 80% of the world’s reserve. It is used as a vessel for technology minerals, tantalum and niobium. Coltan provides the tantalum capacitors used in smartphones and has contributed to their miniaturization by allowing an electrical charge to be stored in a small capacitor. These minerals that allow us to have mini computers in our pockets are often mined by the hands of Congolese men, women and children with no safety protection.

Due to extreme poverty, entire families work at these mining sites for as little as $2 a day. Not only are they working for disturbingly low wages, the conditions they are subjected to are inhumane. Families have claimed that they lost their children in tunnel collapses, other children are now paralyzed for life and have sustained life altering injuries that include smashed limbs and broken spines.

Alongside companies like Dell, Microsoft and Tesla, Apple has been named in a lawsuit brought forth by Congolese families of children killed or injured while working in mines that supply Apple with their cobalt. The lawsuit was filed by human rights firm International Rights Advocates on behalf of 14 parents and children. The lawsuit resulted from the field research conducted by Siddharth Kara, who is an anti-slavery economist. The lawsuit accuses the aforementioned companies of aiding and abetting in the death and serious injury of children who they claim had been working in cobalt mines in their supply chain. In the court documents, the families state that they worked in mines owned by Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt and the UK mining company, Glencore who allegedly supply Apple with their cobalt for their products. The court papers state that Apple has the the jurisdiction as well as the resources to supervise and regulate their cobalt supply chains and that their decision to not do so contributed to the deaths and injuries suffered by their clients. Unsurprisingly, Glencore and Apple’s have adamantly denied these allegations on a few occasions

As much as Apple would love to deny their involvement, children continue to die, women and men continue to be subjected to inhumane working conditions with horrible wages. All this so that Apple can mass produce their products and continue to make ridiculous amounts of profit for little to nothing. Is it “little to nothing” though? The lives of Black people in Congo have been reduced to $2 a day so that Apple can disingenuously amplify the voice of Black creatives and pretend that they care about us. This is very obviously a marketing ploy for Apple to attempt to show support and allyship to the Black community. Apple is making a mockery of us and our lives and have reduced our value to an ad campaign. To assume that we won’t see through it is an insult to our intelligence and I hope more people see it in this manner.

Launching a limited edition wristband in honour of the Black community, that Apple will see profits for, after the Apple watch itself was made from cobalt and coltan, mined by Black Congolese children is literal hypocrisy. Apple does not value Black lives and it has never been more apparent. The only value Apple sees in Black lives is the profit we bring them.

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