Green Killers: Congo’s Miners Dying to Feed World’s Hunger for Electric Cars

Exploited by Chinese firms, workers as young as nine risk their lives to feed the world’s growing hunger for cobalt. 

electric cars Congo
Patrick, a 26-year-old Congolese miner, uses hand tools to dig for cobalt

Solange Kanena sits on her broken orange sofa, heavily pregnant, resting. Looking around her three-room shack, she wonders how she will feed her eight children. Her husband died in a mining accident 10 days ago.

She has never held an iPhone and has no idea what an electric car is. But when the deep, muddy tunnel collapsed on her husband, he was digging for a commodity that is critical to the batteries of both: cobalt.

Last year about 70% of the world’s supply came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the poorest, most violent and corrupt places on Earth. Much of its cobalt comes from around this town.

“Without DR Congo there is no electric car industry and no green revolution,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, head of Rights and Accountability in Development (Raid), a UK-based campaign group.

It is estimated that 125m electric vehicles will be on the road by 2030, about 40 times more than at present. Britain is among a number of countries planning to phase out petrol and diesel in the next 20 years.

However, while electric car owners might feel happy about cutting carbon emissions, the dark side of the green revolution is all too visible in Kolwezi’s modern-day gold rush.

electric cars congo
Solange Kanena’s husband died in a mining accident; she is pregnant with her ninth child.
Image: PAULA BRONSTEIN

In the shadow of shafts dug by huge multinational companies such as Glencore is what looks like a human anthill, one of the “artisanal” mines that account for 20% of production. Child labour is common and safety standards are non-existent.

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The post Green Killers: Congo’s Miners Dying to Feed World’s Hunger for Electric Cars appeared first on The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF).

via The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

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March 21, 2019 at 12:37PM

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