There’s a very simple answer to this

The London Metal Exchange is investigating whether cobalt mined by children is being traded in London after members raised concerns about a Chinese supplier.

The exchange is also surveying members to ask how they will guarantee “responsible sourcing”, which it says is part of a “broader push” that it was pursuing independently.

Amnesty International investigators have traced cobalt from small independent mines that use child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo into electronic goods made by famous brands, via Chinese trading companies.

OK. No doubt that it happens as well. The question being, well, what do we do about it?

One answer is nothing.

Another is that we push out the blood minerals legislation to cobalt. That would be a very bad idea indeed. The system designed by the idiots currently costs 100 times what we were told it would.

So, is there a better system?

The LME said in an email to its members that it “would expect that any specific concerns will be addressed as part of our existing efforts”. A spokeswoman said: “We have strict guidelines and criteria for brands [producers] wishing to list their products on the LME. Any evidence of sub-standard practices that fall short of our requirements would be investigated by the LME and action would be taken.

Yes, there is. The LME doesn’t just trade a specific metal. The producer has to meet certain standards. And they really do go check the consistency and so on. Further, being and LME “brand” is something that is valuable. So, incorporate the industry smelter controls into the LME standard (the industry is, with those blood minerals, actually rather good at checking the origin of ore etc for the covered materials) and we’re done. We’ve got economics on our side. People using the child produced material will get a lower price. Users who are concerned about child labour can buy an LME brand knowing that they’re not eploiting.

We’re done aren’t we?

17 thoughts on “There’s a very simple answer to this”

  1. Short version: do-gooders in the west and anti-colonial Marxists in Africa joined forces to hinder reasonably responsible western companies operating there, leading to many leaving. They have been replaced by Chinese companies which really don’t give a fuck, and nor do the local thugs who are in charge.

    Why should I care, exactly?

  2. Yes, the correct answer is “Nothing”. The LME is an exchange: if it were a broker the answer might be different but the parties to a transaction are known to one another and the fact that they are members of the exchange doesn’t confer any responsibility on the LME for members’ behaviour outside its precincts.

    Another answer would be to scrap physical trades since forward contracts don’t need to be mined at all.

  3. What Tim Newman said.

    This is yet another article – like Frances Ryan’s ‘The disabled are lonely and it’s all the fault of the Tories!’ article in CiF this morning – where the only sane response is a shrug.

  4. Worth remembering that “children”, as a concept, is a fairly recent Western European phenomenon. Other cultures differentiate infants & that’s about it.
    Obviously, neo-liberal Imperialism.
    And we can probably work patriarchy in somehow.


    Job done!

  5. I probably should be full of guilt ridden angst at the thought of children down mines but there’s lots going on the world that’s wrong and I haven’t got time to be worried about all of it.

  6. Do nothing. Cobalt non olet.

    Colonialism never goes away.

    “We do things better than those people do, so they must do it our way.”

    Child labor laws in countries that have it are unaffected by silly games 2000 miles away. But it makes the sanctimonious feel good about themselves. Which is really all this is about.

    How much is society willing to pay so the Leftards can feel good about themselves?

  7. No, the correct answer is “we push out the blood minerals legislation to cobalt”.
    Maximum virtue signaling for activists and politicos, more money for the blood minerals scheme industry and we get to “Think of the Children”.
    What’s not to like?

  8. It’s important that we all help the less fortunate. I can’t stop child labour but I still try to make the world a better place when I can. This morning in Foyles bookstore in Waterloo station i reversed the 3 copies of The Joy of Tax so you couldn’t see the spines, only the bare leaf side, then hid Paul Mason’s latest rot behind a copy of a Tim Hartford book.

  9. Just ban all imports from Communist-controlled countries and the problem will be solved.
    Why does no-one point out that all the evil practices for which Apple and LME are being condemned for failing to prevent are arried by Communist regimes?


    “In the popular mind, child labor is very often equated with child abuse. The phenomenon is taken to be a product of avaricious entrepreneurs seeking cheap labor and selfish parents who would prefer enjoying leisure while their children work. It seems to us that while this popular description of entrepreneurs may well be accurate, the parents are mischaracterized. We argue instead that the traditional model of the household, where parents take their children’s interests into account, while somewhat idealistic, is a better model. Thus, while not denying that child abuse does occur in all societies, we take the position that when we have children working as a mass phenomenon as in many less-developed countries, it is much more likely that this reflects not a difference in the attitude of the parents but the problem of stark poverty where the parents are compelled to send the children to work for reasons of survival. Even in England, which witnessed some of the worst excesses of child labor in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a parliamentary report noted that “parents were desperately unhappy about the situations their children were in but could do nothing about it. The social system allowed them no choice.” (Sara Horrell and Jane Humphries, 1995.)”

    The DRC is a place where survival is probably at stake. Amnesty International should be ashamed.

  11. @ken, November 23, 2017 at 3:59 pm


    late 70s early 80s I had to skip school sometimes to work in parents’ hotel. Last two weeks of term before Christmas were always missed.

  12. Dear Mr Worstall

    As above, childhood was invented by the Victorians, brought about by increasing wealth.

    Like pollution, ‘child’ labour will not be addressed until the economy can afford it. The quicker the developing country develops, the sooner ‘child’ labour can end.

    The biggest brakes on development are internal conflict, government corruption and overseas aid, not necessarily in that order.

    It seems the more developed we become, the longer childhood must last. Infantilising the over 18s seems to be the order of the day.


  13. @DP, November 25, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    It seems the more developed we become, the longer childhood must last. Infantilising the over 18s seems to be the order of the day.

    Yep. As Apprentice (dogs) this week: Karen Brady in boardroom “He’s a manchild”

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