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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

‘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.

Read more

‘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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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

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.

Read more

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

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.

Read more

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

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.

Read more

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

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.

Read more

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

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.

Read more