The dark side of Cobalt, the digital age’s miracle metal – by Charlie Angus (Toronto Star – January 30, 2022)

Charlie Angus looks at lessons from an early 20th-century mining rush. An excerpt from the new book by the New Democrat MP for Timmins—James Bay, “Cobalt: Cradle of the Demon Metals, Birth of a Mining Superpower.”

The world is searching for cobalt, the miracle ingredient of the digital age. The metal’s capacity to store energy and stabilize conductors has made possible the proliferation of rechargeable batteries, smartphones and laptops. More crucially, in the face of catastrophic climate change, cobalt offers the hope of a clean-energy future.

But cobalt has a much darker side. The relentless drive to feed the cobalt needs of Silicon Valley has led to appalling levels of degradation, child abuse and environmental damage in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the world’s number one cobalt producer. The situation is so dire that human rights campaigners have denounced cobalt as the blood mineral of the 21st century.

Tesla, Google and Apple would love to cut their ties with the abuses in the DRC, but cobalt is an extremely elusive metal, and the struggle to secure cobalt supplies is taking place within the context of a much broader geopolitical struggle with China. This is why the search for an alternative source of a metal that was named after demons has drawn investors back to a little town in northern Ontario.

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