Cobalt is a metallic element that is found mostly in minerals and it's a key component in the lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that power electronic devices such as laptops, smartphones, and electric cars.
Amnesty International claims to have traced cobalt used in lithium batteries sold to 16 multinational brands to mines where young children and adults are being used as modern day slaves and are being paid a dollar a day, working in life-threatening conditions and subjected to violence, extortion and intimidation.
More than half the world’s supply of cobalt comes from the DRC, with 20% of cobalt exported coming from artisanal mines in the southern part of the country. In 2012, Unicef estimated that there were 40,000 children working in all the mines across the south, many involved in mining cobalt.
According to Amnesty, the components produced by Huayou Cobalt are then sold on to battery manufacturers in China and South Korea, who, in turn, supply some of the world's top electronics companies.
The Amnesty report also says that child miners as young as seven carried back-breaking loads and worked in intense heat for between one or two dollars a day without face masks or gloves.
Amnesty also found that many of the underage miners were malnourished and subjected to "physical abuse, sexual exploitation and violence."
Several children said they had been beaten by security guards employed by mining companies and forced to pay “fines” by unauthorised mines police sent by state officials to extort money and intimidate workers.
SOURCE - https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/01/child-labour-behind-smart-phone-and-electric-car-batteries/