Congo, also known as Kinshasa or DR Congo, is the second largest country in Africa after Algeria with a population of 105 million. Cobalt is a chemical element with the symbol Co and atomic number 27. Like nickel, cobalt is found in the Earth’s crust only in a chemically combined form, save for small deposits found in alloys of natural meteoric iron. The country is rich in minerals such as cobalt, copper, zinc, cassiterite, manganese, coal, silver, cadmium, Uranium and gold. The country is a major source of some of the minerals used to manufacture components in household appliances, jewelry, mobile phones and electric vehicles.
Mineral extraction is the backbone of the country’s economy. Copper and cobalt comprises 85% of exports in Congo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_the_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo). Congo’s huge productions make it a sourcing option for companies in need of the minerals. Cobalt, for example, is an important mineral for the lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles, smartphones and even laptops. It is Key for battery life. The Katanga region South of Congo is the hub of more than half of the world’s cobalt resources and 70% of current cobalt production takes place in Congo. It is also projected that the demand for cobalt will surge by 2030 because of the introduction of electric vehicles. In June 2020, Tesla announced a partnership with Glencore, one of the world’s largest commodity trading firms, which also is mining cobalt in the DRC, for lithium-Ion batteries. Tesla has plans to purchase cobalt from Glencore to manufacture its own batteries in China and Germany.
Mining in Congo is mainly artisanal which implies that it requires man to do most of the labour. It is carried out by hand using basic equipment. Research shows that due to the increased demand in the minerals, over two million Congolese people do the mining job. This number comprises both kids and grownups. This method comes with major human rights risks as such labour exploitations and dangerous working conditions. Deaths are reported in the mining fields due to unsafe tunnels. More than 70% of the world’s cobalt comes from Congo. 15 to 30% of Congolese cobalt comes from artisanal and small scale mining. (https://www.cfr.org/blog/why-cobalt-mining-drc-needs-urgent-attention)
According to https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-49912811, some time in 2019 at least 21 people died in a collapse at an illegal gold mine in Congo, Kampene. In the same year, Apple, Google, Tesla and Microsoft were sued by 14 families from Congo because of deaths of their children in the mining field. The extraction of cobalt from DRC has been linked to human rights abuses, corruption, environmental destruction and child abuse. The IRA adds that the children were forced to leave school to pursue the “only economic option” of “artisanal” cobalt mining. You might probably be wondering why did the families sue the companies, it’s because the majority of the cobalt mined goes to them and they did not put proper rules and measures to avoid accidents and prevent underage children from working on sites. Tesla shares were down 0.94% in premarket trading, while Apple shares were down 0.43%. Tesla founder Elon Musk last year indicated the company would cut its use of cobalt in its car batteries . (https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2019/12/17/apple-and-tesla-among-tech-giants-being-sued-over-the-deaths-and-injuries-of-child-cobalt-miners-in-drc/?sh=56b01fbd3107)
In a response to the Telegraph, Microsoft said it was committed to responsible sourcing of minerals and that it investigates any violations by its suppliers and takes action. A spokesperson for Google told the BBC that the company was “committed to sourcing all materials ethically and eliminating child mining in global supply chains”.
According to www.statistica.com , in 2018 cobalt production was the highest in the last decade as it produced 104,000 tonnes. In 2019, the production reduced slightly to 100,000 tonnes and in 2020 it reduced again to 95,000 tonnes. The country needs to find a way of getting back on track with production because it heavily relies on cobalt to boost its GDP. Below is a table on cobalt production in the previous years.
Cobalt is very important in production of various things we use on a daily basis. Congo is a rich country in terms of minerals especially cobalt and it generates a lot of revenues for families. Although most of the workers are exploited and depend on the mining jobs for survival, many citizens of Congo live below the poverty line because of exploitation from the officials in charge. Many people expect to see a rich country because it is a hub of many minerals but that is not the case because of corruption. A majority of people have started to petition against small children working on mining farms because they need to go to school and also working on unsafe mining grounds. The workers need security from where they work.
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