Cobalt Child Labor

If you’ve been following this blog, then you’ve seen me highlight the ridiculous politics done on the African continent. As a Diasporan who is an advocate for global African sovereignty, it’s depressing how hell-bent many African leaders are in setting back our progress. One issue that infuriates me to no end is the child labor occurring in cobalt mines.

Cobalt is a mineral used to create lithium-ion batteries that power up electric cars, laptops, and smartphones. The demand for cobalt will continue to increase as more electric cars are sold, particularly in Europe and Western countries. By 2030, the demand for cobalt will spike as a result of the electric vehicle boom.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, more than 70% of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with 15-30% being produced by artisanal and small-scale mining (manual labor). Due to the high levels of government corruption in the DRC, child labor has become a major problem in these mining operations, with human rights groups reporting severe human rights issues. Since mining is a source of income for millions of Congolese living in severe poverty, obliterating artisanal and small-scale mining is out of the question.

Artisanal mining is largely done by hand, and fatal accidents have become a common theme.

Former miner Kongolo Mashimango Reagen stated the following:

“It was very tiring, very difficult.”

“I watched too many collapses. I have seen children dying in the mines.”

A lawsuit was filed by the International Rights Advocates on behalf of 14 Congolese families. Companies like Apple, Google, Tesla, Dell, and Microsoft have been accused of knowing that cobalt used in their products is linked to the labor, injuries, and deaths of child minors. However, they failed to regulate their supply chains and instead profited from the exploitation. The court papers provided several examples of child minors buried alive or enduring injuries from tunnels collapsing, and the families want the companies to compensate them for the forced labor, emotional distress, and negligent supervision.

I’m having a hard time detaching leadership in the Congo from Tech companies who profit from the children in these mining fields. This has to be a two-way business transaction for it to be justified. And it also doesn’t help that public figures are jumping on the bandwagon as well.

In a recent joint venture with a state minor, R&B singer Akon has signed a deal to finance a copper and cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This partnership will be through his U.S.-registered firm White Waterfall LLC., a private equity fund that invests in mining companies that aren’t publicly traded.

I’ll keep you all updated on any new findings regarding this case. If you’d like to discuss, feel free to comment below.

Until Next Time…

(Sources)

Photo Credit: Humanium

Campbell, J. (2020, October 29). Why Cobalt Mining in the DRC Needs Urgent Attention. Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://www.cfr.org/blog/why-cobalt-mining-drc-needs-urgent-attention

Ross, A. (2021, January 5). R&B star Akon enters Congo mining sector in JV with state company. Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://www.reuters.com/article/congo-mining-akon/rb-star-akon-enters-congo-mining-sector-in-jv-with-state-company-idINKBN29B0EO?edition-redirect=uk

Congo, Child Labour and Your Electric Car. (n.d.). Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://www.ft.com/content/c6909812-9ce4-11e9-9c06-a4640c9feebb

Top tech firms sued over DR Congo cobalt mining deaths. (2019, December 16). Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50812616

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