OPINION: How our green transition and hunger for battery metals devastate Africa and the Congo – by Siddharth Kara (Globe and Mail – July 22, 2023)


Siddharth Kara is associate professor of human trafficking and modern slavery at Nottingham University and the author of Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives.

During one of my trips to the Congo, I met Jolie in her small home of cracked brick walls and rusted roofing in the cobalt-mining town of Kolwezi. Although Jolie had invited me to her home that day to discuss her story, the moment I arrived it felt as if she regretted my presence. She did not wish to speak at length.

To prevent Jolie and everyone else I’ve interviewed from being identified and targeted for reprisal, I have used pseudonyms for them and am withholding the dates on which we met. This is also to protect my continuing research, which delves into the often unseen, yet heavy cost that the Global South pays for the First World’s ideals and conveniences.

Tucked in the southeastern corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kolwezi is home to several colossal open-pit copper-cobalt mines that have all but swallowed the city. Jolie’s home was in a frenetic locale with some of the densest mineral concentration. Thousands of residents dig tunnels by hand in a dangerous hunt for the critical component for batteries used in everything from cellphones to electric vehicles.

None of the tunnels have ventilation shafts, rock bolts or supports, and they often collapse. Jolie’s husband, Crispin, and her teenage son, Prosper, worked there underground – two of the hundreds of thousands of women, men and children as young as 6 who spend their days across this region digging for cobalt. They are called “artisanal miners” in the industry, although this quaint term belies the miserable conditions under which they toil.

For the rest of this column: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-how-our-green-transition-and-hunger-for-battery-metals-devastate/