‘Here it is better not to be born’: Cobalt mining for Big Tech is driving child labor, deaths in the Congo
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of The Independent (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
Posted: March 27th, 2023
During one of his many visits to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Siddharth Kara ... met a young woman sifting dirt for traces of cobalt. Priscille told him she had suffered two miscarriages and that her husband, a fellow “artisanal” miner, died of a respiratory disease. It is just one of many devastating personal accounts in Cobalt Red, a detailed exposé into the hidden world of small-scale cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The “quaint” moniker of artisanal mining, Mr. Kara points out, belies a brutal industry where hundreds of thousands of men, women and children dig with bare hands and basic tools in toxic, perilous pits, eking out an existence on the bottom rung of the global supply chain. The miners are the first step in the race for precious metals and minerals by some of the world’s most powerful companies. If you own a smartphone, tablet, laptop, e-scooter, [or] electric vehicle ... then it is a system in which you are unwittingly complicit. Around 75 per cent of the world’s cobalt is mined in the DRC. The rare, silvery metal is an essential component to every lithium-ion rechargeable battery. Congolese miners ... have experienced life-changing injuries, sexual assault, physical violence, corruption, displacement and abject poverty. Major tech and EV companies extol commitments to human rights, zero-tolerance for child labor, and clean supply chains. Mr. Kara described these statements as “utterly inconsistent” with what’s happening on the ground.
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