Climate warning
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CongoMines

Climate warning

Child Labor in Cobalt Mines

By: Frank Landman
Modern slavery of children in mines in Congo Smartphones, computers and electric vehicles are examples of products that contain cobalt. Often won by children who work as slaves in mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR). The DRC produces more than 70% of the world's cobalt. DRC has more cobalt reserves than the rest of the world combined. There is no such thing as a "clean" supply chain of cobalt from the DCR. It is supposedly mined by "artisan" miners, freelance workers who do extremely dangerous work for as little as $2 a day. People work in inhumane conditions. They use pickaxes, shovels, pieces of reinforcement to chop the earth into trenches, pits and tunnels to collect the cobalt. Millions of trees have been cut down for this, the air around mines is hazy with dust and grit and the water is polluted with toxic effluents. In addition, cobalt is toxic to touch and breathe. There are hundreds of thousands of Congolese who do this day in and day out. Young mothers with babies strapped to their backs. There is complete cross-contamination between cobalt derived from industrial excavators and cobalt dug by women and children with their bare hands. Industrial mines almost all have artisanal miners at work. For example, about 20,000 people work in the Shabara artisanal mine in the DRC, in shifts of 5,000 at a time. According to the law, small-scale mining may not take place in an industrial mine, yet this is predominantly the case. The mines have taken over everything. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced because their villages have been bulldozed to make way for mining. People have no alternative. There is also the threat of armed forces pressuring people to dig. Or parents who have to make a painful decision: 'Do I send my child to school or do we eat today', because of half a dollar more income. Also, there are many well wall collapses. Mountains of gravel that just crash into people. There are probably 10,000 to 15,000 tunnels that are dug by hand. None of them have supports or ventilation shafts. And these tunnels collapse all the time, burying everyone down there, including children. There are militias, which kidnap children, trade children, recruit children from even other parts of Congo. Children are the most vulnerable and exploited, even in very violent circumstances. In 2009, the previous president in Congo, Joseph Kabila, signed a deal with the Chinese government for access to mining concessions in exchange for development aid. Very quickly, Chinese companies owned 15 of the 19 industrial copper-cobalt mining concessions. They dominate the entire chain and control about 75% of the refined cobalt market and about half of the battery market. Now no more saying you didn't know when you buy a cell phone!

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19 more agrees trigger contact with the recipient

  • winnie nguru

    45 w

    This breaks my heart. These kids do not deserve such treatment . Also why is mining even being done?

    6
    • Lucinda Ramsay

      46 w

      We all have power in our pockets, demand transparency, do your research before purchasing and demand an end to child labour and expect fair wages and conditions for workers from companies -

      7
      • Munene Mugambi

        46 w

        These kids power most electric vehicles and phones, and they get meagre earnings. Sad

        1
        • Hilda Wangui

          46 w

          Very sad this should be condemned kids needs tobe protection against child labour and given their rights

          15
          • Peter Kamau

            46 w

            This is uncalled for ⚠️

            2
            • rosebellendiritu

              46 w

              This is very disheartening and painful especially when parents have to gamble between taking their kids to school or sending them to work in the mines,as much as these activities are polluting the environment,also all these people are at risk..who can come to their rescue?

              15
            • Jordan Edmondson

              46 w

              It sickens me anyone could be out in these conditions, yet alone children. Cobalt mines for batteries are crucial to fight the climate crises, but shouldn't come at this cost. It annoys me that there's really no need for all this cobalt in the first place. Reducing our energy consumption should be out number 1 priority yet many countries are still prioritising cars over public transport and active travel and we still by so many new products rather than reusing and recycling what we have. My heart bleeds for the children in these mines. Serious change is needed.

              2
              • Lucinda Ramsay

                46 w

                @jordan_edmondson I wonder if Elon Musk is doing anything about it...🤔 with all his billions.

                1
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