Castro Introduces Resolution to Address the Exploitation of Child Labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo
WASHINGTON—Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a member of the House Intelligence and Education and Labor Committees, today introduced a resolution to combat the rampant exploitation of children and child labor in cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
“Cobalt is a valuable and strategic mineral of importance to the United States and American businesses. But companies have a moral obligation to eliminate child labor in their supply chains. 40,000 children in the DRC are currently being exploited, abused and mistreated with little to no concern for their well-being. The United States needs to lead public-private efforts to identify, prevent, and take action to halt hazardous child abuse and the worst forms of child labor,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20). “Governments, private industry, and civil society need to work together to respect the human rights of all peoples across the globe, avoid contributing to conflict, and advance sustainable development. Eliminating the abuse of children in the DRC is an important place to start.”
The Department of Labor has reported that the worst forms of child labor have been exploited in the extraction and processing of cobalt ore in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in violation of international standards. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that 40,000 children work in mines in the former province of Katanga, DRC, including in the cobalt sector. The DRC continues to be the world’s leading source of mined cobalt, supplying more than 64 percent of global cobalt production in 2018. Cobalt is a strategic and critical mineral used in numerous diverse commercial, industrial, and military applications, for which demand is growing.
Unregulated extraction and trading in cobalt and other minerals may exacerbate conflict by indirectly or directly supporting armed groups, criminal networks, and perpetrators of serious human rights abuses. Key stakeholders, especially industry groups, trade associations, and private companies, have an individual responsibility to identify, prevent, and take action to halt hazardous child labor and the worst forms of child labor in their cobalt supply chains, and to conduct due diligence with the aim of reducing child labor and improving working conditions in artisanal mines and in the broader cobalt supply chain, thereby respecting human rights, avoiding contributions to conflict, and advancing sustainable development.
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