BOOKS: The horrors behind the mining industry that powers your life – by Russ Mitchell (Los Angeles Times – February 13, 2023)

You, the smartphone addict. The modern nomad, lugging your fancy laptop. The electric car driver, smug in your certainty that you’re making the world a better place. Look over here, under this rock; look at what you’d rather not see.

That’s what Siddharth Kara invites you to do in his damning new book, “Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives.” Maybe you already know our booming battery-based economy depends on cobalt mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. You’ve heard things are bad there. But I’d guess that, like me — smartphone addict, laptop lugger, owner of an electric car — you had no idea just how bad.

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Microsoft calls for ‘coalition’ to improve Congo’s informal cobalt mines (Reuters – February 8, 2023)

CAPE TOWN, Feb 8 (Reuters) – Microsoft visited an artisanal cobalt mine in Democratic Republic of Congo in December as part of attempts to jump-start formalisation of the little-regulated and dangerous industry that experts say is key to meeting global demand for the battery material.

Congo accounts for three-quarters of the world’s mined cobalt supply. Industrial mines produce most of Congo’s cobalt, but “artisanal” miners, who dig by hand and often die when tunnels cave in, account for up to 30% of production, though that fluctuates depending on price.

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How Is Your Phone Powered? Problematically. – by Matthieu Aikins (New York Times – January 23, 2023)

Siddharth Kara’s “Cobalt Red” takes a deep dive into the horrors of mining the valuable mineral — and the many who benefit from others’ suffering.

Cobalt, a mineral essential to the batteries of smart devices and electric vehicles — and therefore to the future — is haunted by a past of slavery and colonialism. The phone in your hand contains several grams of this element; some of it, as Siddharth Kara shows in “Cobalt Red,” was likely mined by people hacking away in toxic pits for subsistence wages.

Used as a source of blue pigment since antiquity, cobalt has joined blood diamonds and forced-labor shrimp as the latest bête noire of critics of globalization. Nearly half of the world’s reserves are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a conflict-stricken country that has long been the site of a geopolitical scramble for strategic resources.

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Podcast Reveals Modern Day Slavery at CCP-Controlled Cobalt Mines in the Congo – by Bryan Jung (The Epoch Times – December 28, 2022)

A revealing podcast has again brought to light the problem of slavery at Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-owned cobalt mines in the Congo and the hypocrisy of green energy advocates.

Siddharth Kara, author of Cobalt Red: How The Blood of The Congo Powers Our Lives and a visiting Harvard professor, told his host Joe Rogan about his research and findings after his visit to the mines in the Democratic Republic of The Congo (DRC). He explained to Rogan the brutal connection between lithium battery powered devices and their source of origin in the CCP-controlled cobalt mines.

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U.S. says Chinese lithium-ion batteries are made with child labour as trade war spills into EVs – by Naimul Karim (Financial Post – October 18, 2022)

Experts say it’s a subtle example of how the U.S. intends to offset Beijing’s influence over a once-in-a-lifetime technological change

The U.S. government’s decision to tie a generous electric-vehicle subsidy to inputs from friendly countries was an obvious attempt to shift the EV supply chains away from China.

But the power of the purse isn’t the only strategy available to Washington. The Biden administration in late September added lithium-ion batteries from China to the U.S. Labor Department’s list of products derived from child and forced labour, a more subtle example of how the United States intends to offset Beijing’s influence over a once-in-a-lifetime technological change, some industry insiders say.

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Chinese Lithium Giant Pulls EVs Deeper Into Forced Labor Glare – by David Stringer and Annie Lee (Bloomberg News – July 17, 2022)

(Bloomberg) — A lithium producer for carmakers including BMW AG and Tesla Inc. is beginning work to assess battery metals projects in Xinjiang, deepening links between electric vehicle supply chains and a region at the heart of human-rights allegations against China.

Ganfeng Lithium Co., China’s top producer of the material, is partnering through a subsidiary with a state-backed entity to accelerate exploration for and potentially develop lithium, nickel and other critical metal assets in the region.

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Biden Has to Choose: Climate Change or Human Rights in China – by William Schneider Jr. (Wall Street Journal – July 4, 2022)

President Biden’s ambition to phase out fossil fuels is at odds with his human-rights objectives in China. Last month the U.S. started enforcing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, “ensuring goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China do not enter the United States market.” Mr. Biden advocated intensely for this legislation and signed it in December.

But the administration is no less committed to using solar energy, batteries and electric vehicles to meet its commitments under the Glasgow Climate Pact. The technologies that underpin these climate-change commitments depend on Chinese forced and child labor.

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Young Afghan Boys Work in Dangerous Mines As Afghanistan Prioritizes Coal – by Kern Hendricks (Vice World News – June 2, 2022)

SAMANGAN, Afghanistan – Noorullah says he’s 18, but he looks years younger, despite the layer of coal dust on his slender face. Huddled in the darkness of a narrow coal-mining tunnel near the Dan-e-Tor—“Black Mouth”—village in the northern Afghan province of Samangan, he looks far too young to be working deep in a coal mine. Illuminated in the thin beam of his headlight, Noorullah’s profound exhaustion is clear to see.

It’s backbreaking work for someone of any age—Noorullah and his fellow miners spend between 12 and 15 hours a day crouched in these claustrophobic tunnels, chipping away at the coal by hand. In the roughly six-foot-wide tunnel, there isn’t enough room to swing a pickaxe, so the miners use a small iron bar to painstakingly chip away at the thin coal seam.

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Report finds failures in due diligence of African ‘conflict minerals’ used in computers and cellphones – by Geoffrey York and Judi River (Globe and Mail – April 26, 2022)

Many of the world’s computers and cellphones are likely to be tainted by “conflict minerals” from Congolese mines where abusive militias and child labour are common, because of failures in a much-touted system of tagging and verifying minerals in the Central African supply chain, a new report says.

The report by British-based environmental research group Global Witness, to be released on Wednesday, alleges that the tagging-and-tracing scheme has become a way for traders to launder their tainted minerals and legitimize smuggling networks.

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Apple, Tesla, Intel could be using conflict minerals due to faulty scheme – by Cecilia Jamasmie ( – April 26, 2022)

Several of the world’s largest companies including Apple, Tesla and Intel may be using conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in their products as they rely on a certification scheme accused of helping “launder” irresponsibly mined metals.

According to the latest report from Global Witness, an international non-profit that challenges power abuses, several firms that use the International Tin Association’s Tin Supply Chain Initiative (ITSCI) scheme are allegedly at fault of fueling conflict.

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Japan Wants to Showcase Gold Mines’ History. Just Not All of It. – by Motoko Rich and Hikari Hida (New York Times – February 21, 2022)

A bid for a UNESCO World Heritage designation is the latest flash point between Japan and South Korea over Japanese colonial abuses during World War II.

SADO ISLAND, Japan — About 40 miles off the northwestern coast of Japan, Akiyoshi Iwasaki is eager to share some history of the mountainous, lightning-bolt-shaped isle where he grew up.

After years of lobbying by local residents, Mr. Iwasaki, a bar owner, is delighted that the Japanese government has nominated three gold and silver mines on Sado Island for UNESCO World Heritage designation, hoping to showcase them alongside Mount Fuji, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Kyoto’s shrines.

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

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 – November 7, 2021)

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)

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)

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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