Element Reacts: Congolese Cobalt Mining
February 22, 0202
February 22, 0202
Host Joe Rogan of the eponymous podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, recently interviewed British Academy Global Professor Siddharth Kara. Speaking plainly, Kara (@siddharthkara) provides compelling first-hand imagery of the "hellscape" in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) due to the worldwide demand for cobalt.
DRC’s illegal artisanal cobalt mining a human rights failure
Siddharth Kara indicated that fifteen thousand miners, including infants on their mothers' backs, toil in pits daily for just one dollar. "Never in human history has there been more suffering that generated more profit and was linked to the lives of more people around the world ever, ever in history that was happening in the Congo right now."
Chinese firms have seized control of the major mines, including the Shabara in the southeast of the DRC. There, Kara revealed, "the local population has been displaced, is under duress, and they dig in absolutely subhuman gut-wrenching conditions for a dollar a day, feeding cobalt up the supply chain into all the phones, all the tablets, and especially electric cars."
Mining waste pollutes the air, water, and soil, disrupting valuable ecosystems, reducing crop production, and contaminating food and fresh drinking water. Cobalt fuels health problems such as asthma, interstitial lung disease, combined asthma and alveolitis, and reproductive complications. The SE Congo is facing dire consequences, becoming less and less sustainable for life but more in need of help daily.
Concerned international human rights organizations powerless.
In an interview with Africa News, the director of Fair Cobalt Alliances, David Sturmes, highlighted the dilemma: Artisanal miners infringe on industrial miners’ territory and break laws. "This makes it difficult for industrial miners to engage. Mining code doesn't allow for them to purchase from artisanal miners or allow them on their concessions, yet international human rights conventions don't allow them to kick them off either." Making matters worse, relocating the miners is prohibited by international human rights conventions, so nobody wins as the issue remains unresolved.
US attorneys fight for children’s and human rights
In late 2021, a US district court judge dismissed the 2019 lawsuit filed against Alphabet, Apple, Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla, noting that the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), a basis of the lawsuit, did not apply extraterritorially to civil claims - a blow for human rights and the injured Congolese child-defendants. Yet, many companies today still claim ignorance of these alleged human rights violations, including child labor, unsafe working conditions, and corruption.
Responding to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) introducing a responsible mineral supply chain standard to help big businesses, international organizations, charities, and foreign governments support the DRC. This guidance aims to protect human rights and stop contributing to potential conflict through sourcing practices. Ensuring secure, reliable, and verifiable supply and identification systems using ledger technology is essential to addressing the threat against human rights.
Element United aims to change the narrative
Element United was founded to advocate for those affected by dangerous mining practices like cobalt. Our digitized assets provide us with measures to support and aid local organizations, end child labor, rehabilitate the environment, and help people facing poverty reclaim their land.
Our next step? Creating a certified process to guarantee that any mine we partner with is safe and sustainable—for both the environment and the workers.
Cobalt demand will continue to grow, thanks to its ability to extend battery life, new technology, and growing energy transfer from fossil fuels to lithium-ion batteries (of which 66% of all mined cobalt is used). But our mission is to work toward a safer, fairer, and more just world so that when you buy nodes from Element United, you're gaining more than tokens. You're helping us protect what's precious.
You can join our mission simply by running a node on your home computer and earning digital rewards. Ready to learn more? Check out our environmental impact mission, Element’s digital economy, and how we’re using blockchain technology to mine the metaverse.