Jan 28, 2019

Cobalt and the Congo

Congolese workers load a truck with sacks of cobalt at the Musompo market. Photo: Sebastian Meyer/Contributor/Corbis News/Getty

Two new articles highlight the challenge of ethically sourcing cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Why it matters: Cobalt is a key material for batteries for EVs and other uses, and the DRC provides over half the world's supply.

What they're saying: Writing in Foreign Policy, Antony Loewenstein takes a skeptical view of Blackwater founder Erik Prince's new project to invest in the development of natural resources for EV batteries in the Congo and elsewhere.

  • The piece notes that the Prince wants to create more ethical mining for the material, which is now reportedly often mined under hazardous conditions and with child labor.
  • But, but, but: "Prince’s record in conflict zones provides little reason to believe he has either the inclination or ability to mitigate violence in Congo or Afghanistan," Loewenstein writes.

A separate weekend piece in the New York Times looks in detail at cobalt and copper mining in the DRC in the context of the region's tragic conflicts and corruption.

  • "The mineral riches that should make the country wealthy have funded governments whose corruption has undermined the young democracy and left its people desperately poor," writes Michael J. Kavanagh.
  • "The copper and cobalt boom has brought Congo steady economic growth, yet its per capita income remains among the lowest in the world."

Go deeper: A push for a battery leap to eliminate "blood cobalt"

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