‘Rarely in history has the practice of preying on the weak been so severe, generated such profit, and touched the lives of so many.’
Excellent story! I had briefly heard about this but I didn't know the extent of the issue using children and exploiting poor people. If only Black Lives did Matter. They seem to only matter when someone can get press and donations from it.
Fortunately, in the realm of EVs Chinese companies like CATL are leading the way in the global shift toward LFP batteries, which unlike NMC batteries don't rely on cobalt. CATL is also leading the way in the commercialization of the successor to lithium-ion batteries, sodium-ion batteries.
"As my colleague Casey Crownhart explained last week, Ford’s new plant will focus on making LFP batteries, which use iron rather than the cobalt and nickel used in the other main type of lithium battery, known as NMC. Compared with NMC batteries, which are widely used to make EVs in the US and Europe, LFP batteries cost less, have a longer life cycle, and are safer when it comes to the possibility of catching fire.
But just a few years ago, LFP batteries were considered an obsolete technology that would never rival NMC batteries in energy density. It was Chinese companies, particularly CATL, that changed this consensus through advanced research. “That’s purely down to the innovation within Chinese cell makers,” Max Reid, senior research analyst in EV and battery supply chain services at the global research firm Wood Mackenzie, tells me. “And that has brought Chinese EV battery [companies] to the front line, the tier-one companies.” "
Ultimately innovation in battery technology will be what reduces global demand for cobalt. This is a problem that will be solved by innovation rather than through a greater emphasis on corporate ESG.
I’ve just changed the signature on my emails to read “Sent from my child labor and slave labor-produced IPhone.” I’m going to add a similar signature to the emails I send from my Apple Mac.
The current system of sourcing from China and Congo is totally unacceptable morally.
Thomas Jefferson, himself a slave owner, wrote in a moment of honesty about slavery, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”
It’s high time we American consumers wake up and take responsibility for the crimes our ruling class are committing in order to provide our comfort and convenience.
If anybody has any ideas about what to do please let me know.
Confirming this quote: "Congo has three-quarters of the world’s cobalt, as well as monopolies on coltan and tungsten—which are vital for batteries and circuits, and enable devices to vibrate." It didn't pass a sniff test and I checked the numbers - it took about 10 minutes to confirm the errors via multiple sources
- Tungsten is mined in many countries with China, Russia and Vietnam being the largest producers. Not that those countries are fabulous, but DRC doesn't have a monopoly.
- As of 2022 Brazil plus Rwanda mine as much Coltan/Tantalum as DRC. Again, not a monopoly.
- The USGS estimates on Cobalt Reserves place DRC at slightly less than 50%. By production, the numbers are closer to 80% of current estimates. The 75% value seems to mix up stocks and flows.
What is the total cost to consumer of the cobalt and other rate earth minerals used in tech and batteries? How much would the costs increase if mining were done humanely and in environmentally conscious ways?
Green revolution advocates do not readily explore the human and environmental costs associated with tech, solar, wind, vegetarian, dense populations, etc.
The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver, 2009) opened my eyes to the ongoing exploitation & tragedy of the Congo. To learn it has only gotten worse is heartbreaking. Thank you for exposing the hypocrisy of the companies claiming they are doing good while in reality are enslaving children and polluting the environment.
Is there a ethical organization that we can donate to?
Reform has to come internally, the people need to want it. We cannot and should not be the savior, as so many past interventions have taught us it invariable turns into a disaster. Hopefully a focus on this issue will bring about some sustainable solutions where the locals can take advantage of their natural resources to advance their society without endangering lives. To stop using their exports will probably mean the poorest don't earn their next meal, that is not a solution for the Congolese, it's just something to help us feel less guilt.
Are there enough children in Congo to supply minerals for all Gavin and Joe’s electric cars?
As an longtime resident of Africa, and a student of African history, this isn’t the first time the Congo was exploited to benefit western technologies and tastes. When it was the hobby nation of King Leopold of Belgium, peoples’ hands were cut off and smoked to preserve them as evidence that local Belgium commissioners were employing adequate discipline to get maximum ivory and rubber production from the people in his district. To the world’s credit, an international outrage caused Leopold to hand the Congo over to the Belgian government, a very modest improvement.
It’s past time to crackdown on those who gain so much from those who have so little. Mr. Newson and Mr. Biden, are your electric dreams worth the life of even a single child? If so, then your lives are worth nothing.
Nice article. Did the author really needed a click bait title? This story stands on its own. I was hoping not to see this cheap attention gathering tactic on thefp.com. Hopefully the author can unlearn this annoying approach seen in all other news site.
Essential journalism. Thank you Free Press.
My son lived in Kinshasa for a year. The situation in DCR is so much more complicated and nuanced than the author discusses. He reads like a sensationalist look-at-me do gooder with no real grasp of the international political and local economic realities of Congo. "The children!!" SMH; elites don't give a damn about "the children". (See: 1985 Live Aid Concert.)China has almost total control of the mining; and other international players, including the US and Russia, are constantly throwing in insurgents and gorilla groups to destabilize the region politically, with the end goal to gain a monopoly through regime change. It is extremely dangerous there; my son was a Marine and they were instructed never to travel alone in the city and were forbidden to go outside of it. The authors claim that he was able to interview and see all these people and mines is dubious at best. Lastly, there is a great deal of research being done in improving battery technology and battery life. The "smart people" are highly incentivized to achieve both goals. My take on that is that necessity is always the mother of invention, so in due time, amazing discoveries will be made in both areas. In the meantime, I'd like to ask the author one question; in 2023, if no one has made headway in this area already, and with trillions of dollars at stake, what could possibly change politically to make that happen? We already know the answer.
The article makes it sound like it’s just iPhones that are the problem, but it’s all cell phones, right? May want to be careful there!
I also reviewed Cobalt Red last week, if you'd like to hear more about and also get some quotes directly from the book.
It sure sounds like the author has a bias against Apple. ALL mobile phones, tablets and desktops have essentially the same parts. Why single out one company? 🤔
Exploitation and deceit are the salt and pepper of humanity.