What Slavery Looked Like in the West – by Kevin Waite (The Atlantic – November 25, 2021)

https://www.theatlantic.com/

Early travelers to the American West encountered unfree people nearly everywhere they went: on ranches and farmsteads, in mines and private homes, and even on the open market, bartered like any other tradable good.

Unlike on southern plantations, these men, women, and children weren’t primarily African American; most were Native American. Tens of thousands of Indigenous people labored in bondage across the western United States in the mid-19th century.

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‘You make money by finding men’: DR Congo’s gold rush sex trade – by Olivia Acland (Al Jazeera.com – November 7, 2021)

https://www.aljazeera.com/

Luhihi, Democratic Republic of the Congo – Deborah* walks down a mud alley between houses cobbled together with plywood and sheets of tarpaulin. On the corner, fuzzy beats emanate from a tin-roofed nightclub. It is only 2pm but drunk men are already hovering at the door, necking beers and milky glasses of moonshine.

Inside it is dark, except for some disco lights that flash green and red. A small group of people are huddled at a table. This place will fill up in the evening, Deborah says, but right now most men are up on the hillside, digging for gold.

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‘Like slave and master’: DRC miners toil for 30p an hour to fuel electric cars – by Pete Pattisson (The Guardian – November 8, 2021)

https://www.theguardian.com/

The names Tesla, Renault and Volvo mean nothing to Pierre*. He has never heard of an electric car. But as he heads out to work each morning in the bustling, dusty town of Fungurume, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s southern mining belt, he is the first link in a supply chain that is fuelling the electric vehicle revolution and its promise of a decarbonised future.

Pierre is mining for cobalt, one of the world’s most sought-after minerals, and a key ingredient in the batteries that power most electric vehicles (EVs). He says his basic wage is the equivalent of £2.60 ($3.50) a day, but if he works through lunch and puts in hours of overtime, he can make up to about £3.70.

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The devil underground: Bolivia’s mining lord of the underworld – by Angelica Zagorski (CIM Magazine – October 27, 2021)

https://magazine.cim.org/en/

Deep inside the dark corners of Bolivia’s deadliest mine, an average of 14 lives are claimed each month. The deaths could be attributed to either the effects of continuously breathing toxic dust and fumes or unsafe working conditions underground, but to the locals it is the work of the devil-like deity known as El Tío.

El Tío, meaning “the uncle,” is worshipped by miners in the Cerro Rico mountain. Legend has it that any deaths that take place in the mine are said to have been caused by his hunger.

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Congo-Kinshasa: Child Miners – The Dark Side of the DRC’s Coltan Wealth – by Oluwole Ojewale (All Africa.com – October 18, 2021)

https://allafrica.com/

Laws and certification schemes aren’t protecting the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s most vulnerable – a fresh approach is needed.

Coltan is one of the world’s most vital minerals, and 60% of reserves globally are found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Kivu province. In 2019, 40% of the global coltan supply was produced in the DRC.

The mineral is used in cell phones, laptops and other devices because of its particular ability to store and release electrical energy. As 5G technology grows, the demand for Congolese coltan will increase. But this is not good news for everyone in the DRC.

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Cameroon Tries to Get Child Miners Back to School – by Moki Edwin Kindzeka (Voice of America – September 09, 2021)

https://www.voanews.com/

KAMBELE, EASTERN CAMEROON – Authorities in Cameroon say they are attempting to remove thousands of children working in gold mines along the country’s eastern border. Some of the children were displaced from the Central African Republic because of violence there and dropped out of school to mine gold for survival.

The 2021-2022 school year in Cameroon started Monday, and Cameroon’s Ministry of Basic Education says thousands of children have not returned to class in areas along the border with the Central African Republic.

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With free education, Congo’s child miners swap hammers for books – by Ange Kasongo (Reuters – August 9, 2021)

https://news.trust.org/

KIPUSHI, Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – S queezed on to benches and on the floor, the Congolese students of Kipushi Primary School did not complain that they only had a few, battered textbooks to share – just down the road, hundreds of less fortunate children were working in open-pit mines.

Enrolment at the school – named after the town of 174,000 people, which is dominated by its copper, zinc and cobalt mines – has risen by 75% to 1,400 students since the Democratic Republic of Congo introduced free primary education in 2019.

“The difficulties are there but free education is a good thing because getting kids to study back then was a headache,” said Maloba Mputu Stany, principal of the school in the eastern province of Haut-Katanga.

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Cobalt price jump underscores reliance on metal for electric vehicle batteries – by Henry Sanderson (Financial Times – April 30, 2021)

https://www.ft.com/

The price of cobalt has jumped 40 per cent so far this year on persistent demand from electric vehicle makers, underlining the challenge in reducing reliance on the rare metal to make batteries for longer-range cars.

Electric carmakers including Tesla and Volkswagen have pledged over the coming years to reduce their use of cobalt, which is largely dependent on mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, deterred by human rights abuses in the supply chain and by the high price.

Prices for the world’s most expensive battery metal hit their highest level since January 2019 in March — at $25 a pound — and currently hover around $21, according to data company Fastmarkets. Analysts at RBC say they expect cobalt prices to reach $28.50 a pound this year, and rise to $40 in 2024 as alternatives are expected to remain scarce.

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Growth in Burkina Faso gold mining fuels human trafficking – by Sam Mednick (Associated Press/Minneapolis Star Tribune – April 30, 2021)

https://www.startribune.com/

SECACO, Burkina Faso — For months, human traffickers beat and drugged Blessing, hauling the 27-year-old from one gold mine encampment to the next, where each night she was forced to sleep with dozens of men for less than $2 a person.

The madam who lured Blessing to the landlocked West African nation of Burkina Faso with promises of a hair salon job, threatened to kill her if she tried to run away. “Nobody comes to your rescue,” said Blessing, wiping tears from her cheeks during a recent interview.

In December 2019, while the madam was away, Blessing finally got the courage to escape. With the help of local residents, she and six other women left the encampment and walked to safety, ultimately ending up in a United Nations transit center for migrants in the capital city of Ouagadougou. Blessing’s experience in the gold mining encampments is not unique.

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Rihanna Fenty Beauty brand under lens in India for ‘using mica from mines hiring child labour’ – by Arun Anand (The Print India – February 5, 2021)

The Print India

NGO Legal Rights Observatory has filed a complaint with the national child rights protection body, alleging Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty brand uses ‘blood mica’ from Jharkhand mines.

New Delhi: International pop star Rihanna, who created a stir in India by tweeting in support of the protesting farmers, is now under the scanner of the National Commission For Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) for allegedly using mica from Indian mines — where “child labourers work in dire conditions” — in her cosmetics brand ‘Fenty Beauty’.

NCPCR chairman Priyank Kanoongo told The Print they are looking into the matter and “would do the needful”.

This comes after the NCPCR received a complaint Friday from NGO Legal Rights Observatory (LRO).

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Pandemic drives more people to risk lives in India’s illegal mica mines (Deccan Herald/Reuters – January 6, 2021)

https://www.deccanherald.com/

When India went into lockdown last March and Tota Rai lost his cleaning job in the textile hub of Surat, he knew working in the illegal mica mining industry back home was his only option.

Rai, 45, and his three sons – two adults and one teenager – now spend their days scavenging for scraps of the valued mineral used to put the sparkle into make-up and car paint and in electronics to sell to local traders in eastern Jharkhand state.

But as the pandemic drives more families to mica, residents, researchers and campaigners have voiced concerns over failings by the government and private sector to regulate the often fatal trade sourced from abandoned mines and to create other jobs.

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Child labour, toxic leaks: the price we could pay for a greener future – by Robin McKie (The Guardian – January 3, 2021)

https://www.theguardian.com/

The battle to stave off Earth’s looming climate crisis is driving engineers to develop hosts of new green technologies. Wind and solar plants are set to replace coal and gas power stations, while electric cars oust petrol and diesel vehicles from our roads. Slowly our dependance on fossil fuels is set to diminish and so ease global heating.

But scientists warn there will be an environmental price to pay for this drive to create a world powered by green technology. Prospecting for the materials to construct these devices, then mining them, could have very serious ecological consequences and major impacts on biodiversity, they say.

“The move towards net zero carbon emissions is going to create new stresses on our planet, at least in the short term,” said Prof Richard Herrington, head of earth sciences at the Natural History Museum, London. “We are going to have to learn how to consider profit and loss with regard to ecosystems just as we do now when we are considering economic issues.”

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Along Russia’s ‘Road of Bones,’ Relics of Suffering and Despair – by Matilda Coleman (UpNewsInfo.com – November 22, 2020)

https://upnewsinfo.com/

The Kolyma Highway in the Russian Far East once delivered tens of thousands of prisoners to the work camps of Stalin’s gulag. The ruins of that cruel era are still visible today.

The prisoners, hacking their way through insect-infested summer swamps and winter ice fields, brought the road, and the road then brought yet more prisoners, delivering a torrent of slave labor to the gold mines and prison camps of Kolyma, the most frigid and deadly outpost of Stalin’s gulag.

Their path became known as the “road of bones,” a track of gravel, mud and, for much of the year, ice that stretches 1,260 miles west from the Russian port city of Magadan on the Pacific Ocean inland to Yakutsk, the capital of the Yakutia region in eastern Siberia.

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Canadian miner Nevsun Resources settles with African workers over case alleging human-rights abuses – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – October 29, 2020)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

Canadian base-metals miner Nevsun Resources Ltd. has reached a settlement with a trio of Eritrean workers who had sued the company for alleged human-rights abuses during the construction of a mine in the African country.

The development comes in the wake of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling earlier this year that Nevsun could be sued in Canada for alleged infractions abroad – a landmark decision that broadened liability for all Canadian corporations with international operations.

“This settlement speaks to the incredible courage of the mine workers who came forward with their horrific experiences,” Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada, said in a release.

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Cobalt blues: In Congo the little guys are jailed for stealing minerals (The Economist – October 17, 2020)

https://www.economist.com/

When cobalt prices soared from 2016, young men from all over Congo flocked to the south of the country to dig the stuff up. Demand for the metal, used in smartphones and electric cars, was driven by carmakers needing around 10kg of it per vehicle.

(Phone batteries, by contrast, require just a few grams each.) Some of these young men set up camp in the village of Kawama, cobbling together their huts with planks and sheets of tarpaulin.

The village feels less hopeful nowadays. Barefoot children in rags chase each other around piles of smouldering wood, which residents burn to make charcoal. Cobalt prices plummeted in 2018 after the market was flooded and companies dawdled over electric-car designs.

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