Seanad debates

Thursday, 28 November 2019

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

 

10:30 am

Photo of Michelle MulherinMichelle Mulherin (Fine Gael)

I would like the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, to be invited in to discuss a serious human rights issue that has received news coverage, most recently by the Daily Mail.Children as young as four are in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, extracting cobalt so that we might have electric vehicles and batteries for them. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 children are operating in these mines. To say that it is not good for their health is an understatement, and there are long-term repercussions for these children. We are mindful of securing the future of the planet by tackling climate change. What is the future for these children? How are our policies contributing to this problem? The biggest cobalt mines are in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the demand is escalating with western policies to electrify transport, which means that car manufacturers are seeking this particular mineral. This is having a knock-on effect.

How are we contributing to solving this problem and what are we doing? I think everybody understands that this is disturbing. We see other investigations by Sky News and The Washington Post. There is much evidence, along with the fact that the Chinese are involved in these mines and the extraction of cobalt. We have placed ourselves on the world stage. We have to take action and see that there is some accountability such that we are not adding to the misery of people who are already living in very difficult circumstances. It is not acceptable. If this is the way that our climate action policies are going to proceed, they are sorely lacking in seeing the bigger picture of how people's lives are being impacted. This is urgent. It is not something new but it is clearly not being addressed. It is timely that the Minister would be brought in to explain to us what is happening and how the human rights of these children are being protected.

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