Human rights activist warns of abuses in Congo cobalt mines: ‘Moral clock dialed back to colonial times’

Author Siddharth Kara raises the alarm about the growing human rights problem in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR) after he witnesses workers, including children, toiling in cobalt mines for 2-a-day.

According to Kara, cobalt, a key chemical element found in lithium-ion batteries and used in many everyday devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, is mined under appalling conditions in the DCR.

According to, about 90 percent of the world’s cobalt supply is done in the DCR.

Cara, an adjunct lecturer at the Harvard Carr Center for Human Rights, paints a grim picture of the lives of African families. told“There are millions of the poorest people on the planet. [mining for cobalt]”

The Congolese government suspended reforms to the mining code.

“The moral clock has been dialed back to colonial times. They’re doing it for $2 a day and it’s the difference to them whether they eat that day or not, so they don’t have the power to say no. . “They said.

Tech giants such as Apple, Tesla, Microsoft and Samsung have come under fire for turning a blind eye to worker exploitation while publicly insisting they only do business with cobalt suppliers, smelters and refiners who Adhere to strict work standards.

Cara said the pictures she took of young children as young as six or seven years old carrying large bags of stones and mothers working hard while carrying their children painted a different reality. do

According to Kara, the growing trend of pushing more eco-friendly products and electric vehicles (EV) across the country is exacerbating the problem in DCR.

“It should be a green choice, getting an EV. Well, it’s not green for everyone,” he said.

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The human rights activist and author of the forthcoming book “Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives” added that US companies need to change course and reevaluate their relationships with cobalt suppliers. Needs that make profit on people.

“[Companies] to begin [the] The demand for cobalt starts with them — it’s their responsibility,” he said. “The supply chain only exists because of demand. They all say they source it ethically, they all will say supply chains are ethical but then you go to the Congo and you see that’s not true.

Tesla, in 2020, Closed a deal with GlencoreA Canadian mining company that operates a cobalt and copper mine in the Katanga region, in an effort to increase its supply of cobalt for its electric car batteries.

CEO Elon Musk announced in 2022 that the company plans to stop buying cobalt batteries and instead produce batteries in-house.

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