In recent years, activists and independent media have brought attention to “conflict minerals,” key components in technology that are often sourced from war-torn countries. And a recent report from a major human rights group sounds the alarm on a largely overlooked metal that’s being mined by thousands of children and underpaid adults in Africa.
Amnesty International issued the results of its detailed investigation into the sourcing of cobalt, a rare metal that forms a crucial ingredient of lithium-based rechargeable batteries, in a Jan. 19 report. According to the authors, more than half the world’s cobalt comes from Congo, including at least 20 percent which comes from so-called “artisanal miners” in the southern part of the country.
“These artisanal miners, referred to as ‘creuseurs’ in the DRC, mine by hand using the most basic tools to dig out rocks from tunnels deep underground,” according to the report, “This Is What We Die For.” “Artisanal miners include children as young as seven who scavenge for rocks containing cobalt in the discarded by-products of industrial mines, and who wash and sort the ore before it is sold.”