The conditions that were exposed in this article were absolutely horrendous. 100,000 people dig in these mines with only hand tools and they work for strenuous periods of time. Death and injury in mines is common, but exposure to dangerous chemicals and elements is near guaranteed. It’s so bizarre how materials (specifically cobalt in this case) go from such an impoverished and intensively labored area like the Congo to the most well off, luxurious living people in other countries like the United States.
The Congo is exploited for many other reasons than cobalt. Its rubber tusks and elephant tusks made a good reason for other countries to go over and see what they can pocket. In more recent years, the minerals available in the country have attracted other nations. The odd thing about the Congo is that it remains a third-world, lesser developed country despite its abundance of resources. If the people of the Congo were given the opportunity to establish their own businesses and use their own resources instead of being taken advantage of by other nations, then the Congo could undergo a grand development.
The accessibility and advancements in technology that lithium has granted the world makes it difficult to simply give up on having cobalt mined, even if it does happen under horrible conditions. Despite this difficulty, the footage from the mine at Kawama makes it clear that this is an issue of human rights. The miners (or creuseurs) work such extreme hours in terribly poor environments, pushing themselves so hard that at times they even sleep in the tunnels, despite the fact that their bodies are being ruined by the dangerous gases building up in their systems as they leave themselves vulnerable. After all this, along with the fact that at least 2 tons of cobalt are mined every day, each miner only earns 1 or 2 dollars a day. Child labor is normalized because they don’t have any schools to go to, so they have nothing else to do but work, and in places like this, people (even children) function as either a worker or a burden.
Fixing this problem will be a great problem in itself. Cutting the Congo out of the chain will leave them floundering and without people to sell to, but clearly things can’t continue the way they’re going already.