Saturday, May 13, 2023

Cobalt Red by Siddharth Kara

"Kara, a fellow at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health and at the Kennedy School, has been researching modern-day slavery, human trafficking and child labor for two decades. He says that although the DRC has more cobalt reserves than the rest of the planet combined, there's no such thing as a "clean" supply chain of cobalt from the country. In his new book, Cobalt Red, Kara writes that much of the DRC's cobalt is being extracted by so-called "artisanal" miners — freelance workers who do extremely dangerous labor for the equivalent of just a few dollars a day.

"You have to imagine walking around some of these mining areas and dialing back our clock centuries," Kara says. "People are working in subhuman, grinding, degrading conditions. They use pickaxes, shovels, stretches of rebar to hack and scrounge at the earth in trenches and pits and tunnels to gather cobalt and feed it up the formal supply chain.""

The author doesn't call this slavery, but I do.

"Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced because their villages were just bulldozed over to make place for large mining concessions. So you have people with no alternative, no other source of income, no livelihood. Now, add to that the menace in many cases of armed forces pressuring people to dig, parents having to make a painful decision, 'Do I send my child to school or do we eat today?' And if they choose the latter, that means bringing all their kids into these toxic pits to dig just to earn that extra fifty cents or a dollar a day, that could mean the difference between eating or not. So in the 21st century, this is modern-day slavery. It's not chattel slavery from the 18th century where you can buy and trade people and own title over a person like property. But the level of degradation, the level of exploitation is on par with old-world slavery."

Review from Daily Mail online, January 30, 2023
  • Images from the Shabara mine and others in the Democratic Republic of Congo show young children mining 
  • They dig for cobalt, the chemical element that is used in almost every tech product, including mobile phones, on the market today
  • Apple, Tesla, Samsung and Microsoft are the other end of the complex supply chain

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