The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has more cobalt than the rest of the world. The supplier supports the $484.8 billion smartphone industry, the electric vehicle sector, which will reach $858 billion by 2027, and the global laptop computer market, which is currently worth $158.50 billion. Today, the metal can be found in every lithium battery made around the world.
About three-quarters of the world's cobalt reserves are mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When the rest of the world is finished, only 3% will be mined in neighboring Zambia and smaller amounts in other countries.
In 2022, the Norwegian Refugee Council declared the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the world's most forgotten refugee crisis for the second year in a row.
The country's mining provinces have become a hub for armed militias, and the United Nations reports that at least 122 rebel groups in the region have displaced and killed millions of Congolese.
A decade of fighting in the country – around the turn of the century – ended with an estimated six million dead. Lots of kids. This made it – seemingly by implication – the bloodiest conflict since World War II. The question is, did he really stop?
To downplay the life-threatening situation in Congo and the importance of cobalt in the global project, political commentators and journalists blindly assert that it is not the only jurisdiction producing without proper analysis of the vast amount of data, which is by far the most important global component. source.
Many sports, entertainment and media personalities have drawn attention to the situation in the Congo, most recently Kyrie Irving.
Dallas Mavericks star Irving said, "How can I be free, when I know kids are still working the cobalt mines in the Congo and building Teslas?"
Actor, producer and director Ben Affleck has spearheaded the Eastern Congo Initiative for more than a decade, providing support and grants in the region. Affleck has testified several times before the US House of Representatives and Senate and campaigned on behalf of the DRC at the United Nations, emphasizing international diplomacy, support and understanding of the situation there.
Author and journalist Siddharth Kara interviews Joe Rogan on the world's leading podcast about what is happening in the region and the dramatic toll it is taking on people's lives.
During his stay in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kara insisted that there was no such thing as "pure cobalt" and that all of the major industrial cobalt mines he visited (which he said he visited almost all) depended on their descendants. labor or slavery.
After watching the podcast, British rapper Jobe recommended watching the interview on his social network.
"The Joe Rogan Experience's Last Tricky Podcast," he wrote. "If you have a smartphone or an electric car (it's 100% yours), I strongly encourage you to listen up."
I sat down with Siddharth Kara, visiting professor at Harvard University and author of Red Cobalt: How Congolese Blood Powers Our Lives, to talk about the situation and why the entertainment industry needs global attention.
Wilson: What is going on in the Congo, why are people dying and what is the civilian death rate from cobalt mining?
Who: Cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of poor Congolese, including thousands of children, extract cobalt from the ground in extremely hazardous conditions for only one or two dollars a day. Suffering from broken bones and toxic pollution, they were buried alive in collapsed tunnels. In addition, the environment is heavily polluted by mining companies. Millions of trees have been cut down and toxic waste has been released into the air, soil and water.
Congo is responsible for nearly three-quarters of the world's cobalt production, so it goes without saying that the entire battery economy is built on the devastation of mining provinces in the DRC. No one will ever know how many women, men, and children have died mining cobalt in the Congo, but the number likely runs into the thousands each year.
Wilson: Do you think the companies profiting from cobalt in the Congo are doing anything about it? If the answer is no, why do you think so?
Who: Big tech and electric car companies at the top of the cobalt supply chain are not doing enough to heed calls to protect the human rights of everyone in their supply chain and to eliminate child labor in their cobalt supply chain. . Mining in the Congo is managed sustainably. The truth is that there is no Congolese cobalt that is not polluted by human rights abuses and environmental damage. The only reason I can think of why is that the people and environment of Africa are less valuable than the people and environment of the Global North.
Wilson: From the government's perspective, can more be done to stop the problem in Congo?
Who: Governments need to do more to convince tech and electric car companies to allow Congolese to mine their own cobalt. For example, the United States has a law — the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (2016) — that prohibits the import of goods manufactured using forced or child labor. If this law is applied to the countless electric devices and cars that use cobalt in their batteries, I am sure that technology companies and electric cars will soon start taking the human rights of the people of the DRC more seriously.
Wilson: Are you saying that from a technical and governmental point of view, the devastating effects of cobalt mining in the Congo are known all over the world? Why did she – and a select few like Joe Rogan and Kyrie Irving – feel the need to highlight the problems facing cobalt production in the country?
Kara: I'm sure that almost all technology and electric car companies as well as most governments in the Global North are aware of the human rights and environmental disasters caused by cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The sad truth is that the heart of Africa has been plundered by foreign powers for centuries. Just as truth-seekers like Roger Casement, Joseph Conrad, and George Washington Williams exposed the horrors of King Leopold's genocidal looting of the Congo for rubber and ivory, today's truth-seekers must bring the world's attention to cobalt plunder. The likes of Joe Rogan and Kyrie Irving have used their platforms to amplify the voices of the Congolese people in a world that cannot function without their suffering. As this truth spreads across the world, a community of conscience will form that will demand that technology and electric vehicle companies take responsibility for their cobalt supply chains.
In recent weeks, the viral nature of Carey and Rogan's podcast episodes have drawn the ire of the general public, global influencers and prominent zeitgeist around Cobalt. This isn't the first time though, there has been a lot of buzz around the Cobalt and Congo for at least the past decade. First-hand accounts of the devastating humanitarian impact on civilian life and the environment in Congo have not been made public before. At least because of the new media, such an account has not been discussed.
Time will tell if raising awareness and anger about this issue will help bring about constructive change.