Cobalt’s human cost: Social consequences of green energy 

Digging for cobalt [image credit: mining.com]

Poverty and grim working conditions — that EV drivers would never tolerate in their own workplaces — don’t sit well under the banner of ‘green’ technology. If it’s like this now, what about the supposedly glorious electric vehicle future if it means ever higher demand for cobalt?
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While driving an electric car has fewer environmental impacts than gasoline-powered cars, the production of the parts necessary for these green technologies can have dire effects on human well-being, says Phys.org.

After studying the impacts of mining cobalt—a common ingredient in lithium-ion batteries—on communities in Africa’s Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), an interdisciplinary team of researchers led by Northwestern University is calling for more data into how emerging technologies affect human health and livelihoods.

Such data can inform policymakers, industry leaders and consumers to make more socially and ethically responsible decisions when developing, funding and using green technologies.

The case study and perspective paper will be published on Dec. 17 in the journal One Earth.

“We have the framework and tools available to compare the environmental costs of automobiles that run on fossil fuels to battery-powered vehicles,” said Northwestern’s Jennifer Dunn, who led the study.

“I can tell you the greenhouse gas emissions per mile for either one. But when it comes to the social effects, we don’t have the same capability for direct comparison. For many engineers, it’s easier to measure or calculate environmental effects than to understand the social conditions in a faraway country that they have never set foot in.”
. . .
Unintended consequences of decarbonization

What Dunn and Young discovered was deeply troubling. They found cobalt mining was associated with increases in violence, substance abuse, food and water insecurity, and physical and mental health challenges.

Community members reported losing communal land, farmland and homes, which miners literally dug up in order to extract cobalt. Without farmland, Congolese people were sometimes forced to cross international borders into Zambia just to purchase food.

“You might think of mining as just digging something up,” Young said. “But they are not digging on vacant land. Homelands are dug up. People are literally digging holes in their living room floors. The repercussions of mining can touch almost every aspect of life.”

Waste generated from mining cobalt and other metals can pollute water, air and soil, leading to decreased crop yields, contaminated food and water, and respiratory and reproductive health issues.

Miners reported that working conditions were unsafe, unfair and stressful. Several workers noted that they feared mineshaft collapses.

Full article here.

via Tallbloke’s Talkshop

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December 22, 2021 at 07:27AM

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