The truth about smartphones and electric vehicles..
Cobalt is said to be “the new blood diamond”.
But unlike diamonds, which are a hoax, cobalt is highly-valuable and dangerous to extract.
As the world transitions to renewable energies to ‘fight climate change’, the demand — and the price — for cobalt, a crucial ingredient used to make lithium batteries, has skyrocketed.
These batteries power everyday technologies for much of the world, including mobile phones and electric car batteries.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is responsible for about 70% of the world’s supply of Cobalt.
The vast majority of that came from informal, or artisanal, cobalt mines.
Mines that are filled with labourers working under slave-like conditions.
Even as the cost increases, the working conditions of the people mining is brutal, and the pay is almost nothing.
One investigation found that workers were getting paid about 35 cents an hour.
Deep craters are dug into the earth to mine cobalt.
Largely unregulated, untrained men, women, and children without protective gear basically dig around looking for cobalt.
Powerful countries using the DRC for its natural resources is nothing new. The DRC has been mined for centuries.
At first, it was primarily for copper. In fact, cobalt is actually a by-product from producing copper.
There are an estimated 200,000 people in the DRC working in these mines, with another million people involved in other parts of the process.
Thousands of children are working in these mines, too.
Human rights groups fear this will only increase as the ‘green revolution’ continues to expand.
SET TO INCREASE
In mid 2020, it was worth $29,000 per metric ton.
By March 2022, it was up to $82,000 per ton.
Although some battery and car manufacturers have reduced the amount of cobalt in their batteries, experts say the volume of sales of cobalt into the sector will rise four or fivefold over the coming decade.
The World Bank estimates that demand for cobalt production will increase 585% by 2050.
Note the 2050 demand includes “Supplying Each Energy Technology”, highlighting how this need will also infiltrate other ‘green solutions’ that are rolled out to ‘stop climate change’.
Most Australian states are pushing full steam ahead with their transition to an electric vehicle future, despite the concerns.
More recently, a wave of new electric vehicles have entered into Australia’s economy,
By 2030, electric utes and vans will make up over half of light commercial vehicle sales in Australia, according to modelling published by research firm, Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
By next year, the BCG report says, light commercial vehicles will be as cheap as their internal combustion engine (ICE) equivalents, based on total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the vehicle.
This will become possible due to outright bans on petrol and diesel models from 2035:
Due to bribery, the artisanal cobalt ends up being processed alongside the industrially mined cobalt, meaning it’s basically impossible to have a clean supply of cobalt, Harvard research fellow Siddharth Kara wrote in his book, “Red Cobalt.”
And it’s not just the slaves this impacts.
Mining cobalt is highly toxic to breathe and touch.
Land near the mines suffers, too.
Waterways are often contaminated, and workers are forced to touch and inhale toxic dust on a daily basis.
Thank goodness we are doing the ‘right thing’ for ‘the planet’..
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