Today I read an article on the mining of cobalt in the Congo, and the content of the article quite honestly shocked me.
The mining of Cobalt in the Congo has been an issue present in the lithium ion battery industry for a long time. Cobalt mining from the mineral rich savanna of Africa is highly unregulated, promotes child labor, and pays little to the miners.
The cobalt goes from the mines in Africa, to Dong Fang International mining, to the worlds largest battery makers, and finally to big electronics companies.
Workers constantly are in risk of terrible working conditions, health risks (birth defects, and respiratory issues), lack of proper safety equipment, and mining supplies.
The demand for cheap cobalt has risen significant in recent years because of its use in lithium ion batteries which are essential for not only laptops and phones, but also for cars.
“60 percent of the world’s cobalt originates in Congo — a chaotic country rife with corruption and a long history of foreign exploitation of its natural resources.” (The Washington Post).
This issue is hardly addressed, and no efforts to create a solution to regulate the industry (especially workers rights) have been implemented.
I was really surprised by these facts as the issue is immense, yet I had never previously heard about it.
It seemed unfair to me that although there is an extreme demand for cobalt, the miners live in complete poverty, and suffer from safety and health concerns daily in order to earn a measly two or three dollars.
Although some big companies such as Apple and Samsung have pledged to “ethically source” their materials, the cobalt miners instead of having improved working conditions, will be out of a job.
Frankel, Todd C. “This Is Where Your Smartphone Battery Begins.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 30 Sept. 2016. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.