An article in the Financial Times by David Pillings last week identified a growing problem associated with the mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
With the increase in the production of electric cars, in an effort to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles, there is an increasing demand for cobalt, used in their batteries. The greatest availability for cobalt appears to be in the Congo, a country riven with conflict, corruption and extreme poverty. Whilst an increased demand for cobalt ought to help the country in tackling poverty, this is apparently not happening. Some of the wealth has apparently disappeared and the rest has gone into the pockets of the foreign mining companies.
The Congo is rich in many minerals: gold, diamonds, tin, coltan, copper and cobalt. Local Congolese may have the benefit of working in these mines but they are paid very little and the work is dangerous. Many of them are children.
And it is not only electric car batteries that need cobalt. All kinds of other gadgets make use of it: cell phones, tablets, laptops and other portable electronic gadgets However, very few people know that cobalt, the element needed to produce these batteries, is the product of underpaid adults and children working in sub-human conditions in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC is the source of about half of the world’s production of cobalt.
child workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Quite clearly, if electric cars are to be the vehicles of the future, urgent investigations into the practice of corporate mining companies need to be made.