Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down with Dua Lipa for a rare podcast interview on her show “Dua Lipa: At Your Service.” The pair covered a wide range of topics, but the one that’s drawn listeners’ attention is Lipa being the first to publicly ask Cook about the use of child labor to mine cobalt for “my new iPhone 15,” a question the CEO was willing to answer… kind of.
Lipa said, “I came across some, like, I guess distressing articles about young kids mining cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And I guess it’s a complicated issue for all tech companies, but, I guess what I was wondering is, my new iPhone 15 … can you guarantee that the cobalt in that phone has not been mined using child labor in the DRC?”
“Yes, we can,” Cook said. “Because we do two things. Well, first of all, I should back up and say our objective over time is to take nothing from the earth to make our products.”
He added, “This is a big idea of not having to mine anything, is to use all recycled material, and today we’re using 100% recycled cobalt in the watch and 100% recycled gold, tin, tungsten, and other rare-earth materials in the watch. So we’re really, we’re really proud of this.
“But for those products that we still do mine, for some of our other products, we have an intense level of tracing in our supply chain all the way back to the mine and the smelter to make sure that the labor used is not child labor.
“I think we do a really good job of that,” he concluded.
Not everyone bought Cook’s answer. A number of Redditors took to the site to discuss the question, with many concluding that it’s likely the entire interview was meant as positive PR for Apple with Lipa’s questions approved ahead of time.
As one person put it, “I’m glad they’re now starting to use 100% recycled mined materials but I’m skeptical of him saying that the products that do need those materials are not mined by children. It could be some kind of technicality where it’s not children but still horrific for the miners.”
Another replied, “The answer is actually some form of ‘We at Apple don’t run the mines. You’ll have to ask the mining company CEO.’”
The use of child labor has been an issue Apple has wrestled with before. In December 2020, The Information reported that one of Apple’s partners, Suyin Electronics, relied on child labor regularly to produce Apple products. Apple was said to have found out about the practice in 2013 and continued to work with the company for three years.
In December 2019, Apple was one of several tech companies accused of being complicit in the deaths of several children who died after working in mines in the DRC. The other defendants were Google, Tesla, Alphabet, Dell and Microsoft. The lawsuit accused the companies of “knowingly benefiting from and aiding and abetting the cruel and brutal use of young children in Democratic Republic of Congo (‘DRC’) to mine cobalt.”
As Lipa quite specifically asked, Cook’s answer pertained to her new iPhone — not necessarily other Apple products, particularly those that came before.
In their nearly 45-minute-long chat, the pair also discussed Cook’s childhood in Alabama, the influence the late Steve Jobs still has on the company and more. You can watch the full interview at the top of this story.