Electronics companies recognise the need for sustainable mining

Stop Child Labour hosted a Round Table meeting about sustainable mining for the electronics sector on 19 April 2016 together with the GoodElectronics Network, SOMO and Friends of the Earth / Milieudefensie.  At this meeting, which took place at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representatives of international electronics companies and NGOs, policy makers and other experts discussed the need for sustainable mining of minerals such as gold, tin, coltan, copper and cobalt.

Child labour in gold mining

More than 1 million children are working in goldmines around the world. This was one of the conclusions of the report ‘Gold from children’s hands’ which was published by Stop Child Labour in 2015. What’s more, this report also reveals that gold ends up in the electronics sector. Electronics companies use 279.000 kilograms of this precious metal every year putting them in the top 3 largest buyers of gold following jewellery manufacturers and the financial sector. A large part of this gold does not come under the Conflict Minerals Rule and this needs to change as soon as possible.

This is why Stop Child Labour also launched a campaign ‘gold in your hands’ when the report was published. We call on electronics companies to take responsibility and to come into action against child labour in the entire supply chain, right down to the level of mining of resources. Part of this campaign was to invite electronics companies for a Round Table meeting, to try and find possible solutions – together with the electronics sector.

Electronics companies

Even though many electronics companies did not accept our invitation, there was definitely consensus among the parties who did take part in the Round Table about the need to make this industry more sustainable and to fully eradicate child labour. In the months to come, we will investigate what the options are and we will continue to encourage and convince companies, collectively if possible, to come into action and eradicate child labour from gold mining.

After all, these companies have a duty to care (due diligence) and fight against child labour in the entire supply chain. This means that it is compulsory for them to map, prevent and restore the damage of human rights violations and to actively report this in the entire supply chain. For example, a mobile phone should not only be assembled without any child labour in the factory, but all the resources that are used for the parts of this phone also need to be mined and produced without any child labour.

In recent years, electronics companies have shown that they are indeed able to successfully solve these human rights issues. In fact, it is compulsory for them to do so when they use gold and other minerals from conflict areas. Every listed company in the US is legally obliged to do so. Stop Child Labour feels, just like many other organisations in the world, that it is about time that we look beyond conflict minerals. We will continue to do our utmost to achieve this goal and we will continue with our campaign ‘gold in your hands’.

You can support our campaign by signing the petition.