Steel Assessment: Know the source, lessen your risk

Global steel production averages 1.6 billion tons of crude steel every year, approximately half in China mills. The myriad components are extracted from many countries, including Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Mexico, and Pakistan. All six of these countries have been identified by the U.S. Department of State as countries known to use forced labor in their mining industries.

Brazil: Brazil is a major exporter of pig iron, a primary ingredient of steel, that is produced using charcoal. Though the Brazilian government has attempted to address slave labor within the industry, effective monitoring is limited, and many instances of forced labor and/or poor working conditions are still reported.

China: Forced labor coal mining in China typically occurs in prison or re-education camps. Coal is also imported from North Korea, where state-imposed labor is utilized, and Mongolia, where forced labor is prevalent in the mining industry. China is also reported to import workers from North Korea, effectively sourcing state-sponsored forced labor.

Colombia: Coking coal mined in Colombia is a primary source of carbon used in the steel-making process. Child labor is actively used in mines throughout the country, and the mining conditions that children are exposed to typically fail to comply with occupational safety and health standards.

India: Iron ore mining is one of the most important and infamous industries in India, known for widespread in-stances of illegal mining practices. With very low levels of government oversight and regulatory mechanisms, mining companies operate with high degrees of criminality, including human and labor rights abuses.

Mexico: Iron ore mining in Mexico is a highly lucrative business for drug cartels that export ore to Chinese mills. As the organized crime epidemic has infiltrated the industry, miners have been left with few labor protections, leaving them exposed to violence, human trafficking, and other human rights abuses.

Pakistan: Forced labor in Pakistan, primarily in the form of debt bondage, is prevalent in the coal mining industry. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that children bonded in coal mining are subjected to poor working conditions, serious occupational hazards, and potential sexual abuse by miners.

Related Reading

Steel’s tensile strength and low cost can have a high human cost

Learn more