DRC: How slave-like conditions in cobalt mines power rechargeable battery economy
"How 'modern-day slavery' in the Congo powers the rechargeable battery economy"
Smartphones, computers and electric vehicles may be emblems of the modern world, but, says Siddharth Kara, their rechargeable batteries are frequently powered by cobalt mined by workers laboring in slave-like conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kara...has been researching modern-day slavery, human trafficking and child labor for two decades. He says that although the DRC has more cobalt reserves than the rest of the planet combined, there's no such thing as a "clean" supply chain of cobalt from the country. In his new book, Cobalt Red, Kara writes that much of the DRC's cobalt is being extracted by so-called "artisanal" miners — freelance workers who do extremely dangerous labor for the equivalent of just a few dollars a day...
Kara says the mining industry has ravaged the landscape of the DRC. Millions of trees have been cut down, the air around mines is hazy with dust and grit, and the water has been contaminated with toxic effluents from the mining processing. What's more, he says, "Cobalt is toxic to touch and breathe — and there are hundreds of thousands of poor Congolese people touching and breathing it day in and day out. Young mothers with babies strapped to their backs, all breathing in this toxic cobalt dust."