I guess the increasing acceptance of electric cars had to have an effect on some parts of the industry. Almost every battery out there is a Lithium-ion battery and one of the ingredients used to make one is called cobalt. The problem is that almost half of the world’s cobalt is under the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to estimates, the Democratic Republic of Congo holds about 3.4 million metric tons of heterogenite ore that can be refined into cobalt. Most of it concentrated in Southern Congo. In the recent decade, hundreds of thousands of Congolese have moved to the south in hopes of finding deposits of their own. This started a mass mining rush that has led to some precarious circumstances.
Mining without any sort of regulations has almost destroyed the region and is a danger to every inexperienced miner out there. People of Congo are risking their health and safety for a little financial security but have been since being exploited by officials and traders who more keen to line their own pockets than to give the miners a fair share. The New Yorker made an in-depth analysis of the dark side of the Congo cobalt rush, talking about its history and the situation it led to.
Miners still struggle to pay rent even though the prices of cobalt have been soaring in recent years. The saddest part is that even the kids are put to work. With no regulations in place, there is no one to keep the peace and restore some order. Many kids seldom remember the last time they had a good meal. According to the New Yorker, they are even drugged with appetite suppressors.
The other problem is the land, which has since lost its past vibrance because of over mining. The pollution caused by the overuse of mining equipment has left a lot of the land uninhabitable. Soldiers patrol most of the mines to keep miners from sneaking in, although some corrupt ones go into the mines themselves to test their luck.
China companies have bought up a lot of the mines in south Congo in recent years and have since imposed stricter regulations on the mines to keep things under control but the situation doesn’t seem to be improving anymore. Many companies have pledged to find alternatives to cobalt and use cobalt-free batteries but they have yet to do. Tesla being number one on the list.