Lithium batteries have transformed our lives. They power everything from mobile phones to electric vehicles (EVs) to laptops and iPads. Without them, much of the technology that we use every day wouldn't be possible. Electric vehicles allow people to be content with themselves because they've cut down on their vehicles’ carbon footprints by moving away from gas-powered vehicles, so they can feel confident that they're helping fight against climate change.
But what is the price? RedState’s Jim Thompson wrote a piece on EVs in July:“Own an electric car? Thank a slave.” That's because the lithium battery that powers automobiles requires the rare element cobalt, the most abundant reserves of which can be found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Unfortunately, slaves, even child slaves, are required to mine it.
Siddharth Kara, Harvard professor and author of “Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives,” was interviewed as a guest on Joe Rogan's podcast recently and revealed some truths about the real situation:
“Cobalt took off [10-12 years ago] because it was started to be used in lithium-ion batteries to maximize their charge and stability.… [Congo] is sitting on more cobalt than the rest of the planet combined…
“Before anybody knew what was happening, Chinese Government, Chinese mining companies, took control of almost all the big mines, and 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.”
It seems that the Biden administration isn't losing any sleep over this issue and is happy to take advantage of another country to further the green initiative. In fact, it appears that the United States just entered into an agreement with Congo and Zambia to increase the supply chain for these magical components.
Kara asserts that this is among the most horrific instances of slavery to date:
“Throughout the whole history of slavery—I mean, I’m going back centuries. Never, 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 than what’s happening in the Congo right now.
“And the reason that I say that is this. The Cobalt that’s being mined in the Congo is in every single lithium-ion rechargeable battery manufactured in the world today. Every smartphone, every tablet, every laptop, and crucially, every electric vehicle.”
Kara continues by showing a clip of a cobalt mine and explains that there's supposed to be no “artisanal miners”—those who mine with their hands, without using industrial machinery. Yet the mine is full of such miners, many of whom are young children.
“There’s more than 15,000 human beings crammed into that pit, digging by hand, and if you have sound, you hear the mallets, you hear the shouting, you hear the grunts. It’s a mass of humanity.”
Kara also notes that tech and EV companies claim that their raw materials are sourced directly from “clean” mining operations, knowing that nobody is going to visit the Congo and verify this assertion themselves.
However, Kara did. And while Kara isn't the only one to speak out about the issues facing the African country, he does offer an impressive new perspective supported by video. It’s not certain how to overcome this problem; however, it’s important to make the facts available.