ELON MUSK IS KILLING POOR BLACK CHILDREN FOR HIS 'BLOOD COBALT'
Linked to Child Labor Are Thriving in Rush for Car Batteries
at Congo’s artisanal mines probably rose at least half
vital to many electric vehicles has tripled in 18 months
appetite for electric cars is driving a boom in small-scale cobalt
production in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where some mines have
been found to be dangerous and employ child labor.
from so-called artisanal mines probably rose by at least half last year,
according to the estimates of officials at three of the biggest
international suppliers of the metal, who asked not to be named because
they’re not authorized to speak on the matter. State-owned miner
Gecamines estimates artisanal output accounted for as much as a quarter
of the country’s total production in 2017.
a concern for carmakers from Volkswagen AG to Tesla Inc., who areseekingto
secure long-term supplies of the battery ingredient but don’t want to be
enmeshed in a scandal about unethical mining practices. Tech giants
including Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. endured bad publicity after a
2016 Amnesty International report saidchildrenwere
being sent down some Congolese mines to dig for cobalt destined for
their gadgets. Pit and tunnel collapses killed dozens of workers in
2015, the advocacy group said.
has tripled in value in the last 18 months as therise
of electric vehiclesintensifies competition for
scarce resources. Two-thirds of the world’s supply comes from Congo, the
second-poorest nation. Theboomin
the metal, currently trading above $80,000 a metric ton, has triggered
more mining in the cobalt-rich Katanga region, where sprawling hand-dug
mines dot the landscape, and searching for ore is as commonplace as
overall cobalt production fell in 2016 after a crackdown following the
Amnesty report, but it rebounded last year. Shipments of cobalt
hydroxide -- a partially refined product that contains about one-third
cobalt and is the main export product -- climbed about 20 percent in
2017 to 269,254 tons, government statistics show.
output rose, production remained almost flat at the country’s biggest
mines, run by Glencore Plc and China Molybdenum Co., according to the
companies. The government’s statistics show that much of the growth can
be attributed to small and medium industrial producers, who often add
artisanal cobalt to supplies from their own mines to make
cobalt-hydroxide for export.
Ministry of Mines estimates 86,923 tons of cobalt was produced last
year. There are no exact data on how much of that cobalt is produced at
artisanal mines, but the figure is about 13,000 tons higher than the
output reported by the country’s industrial operators andpublishedby
the chamber of mines this month.
addition, the state’s own mining company says ore worth billions of
dollars is being smuggled out of the country.
20,000 to 30,000 tons of cobalt a year is being smuggled across the
border into Zambia and not declared to Congo’s export agencies,
Gecamines’s Chairman Albert Yuma said in an interview in Cape Town this
month. That amount would be worth as much as $2.5 billion at today’s
three suppliers who spoke to Bloomberg estimated Congo’s artisanal
output at 10,000 to 20,000 tons last year.
is not in our interest,” Yuma said. “If we really want to benefit from
cobalt, we need to progressively move towards economic integration and
stop the artisanal production.”