The Human Cost of Modern Battery Usage
In a tech obsessed culture do we really know how our battery products are made?
Last year the Washington Post released a massive story about cobalt mining in the Congo. Some of these operations are nothing short of modern slavery, far worse than what most people would expect in the modern age. The article details what it is like for the people in the villages to live and survive in areas targeted for their resources. In many cases the working conditions, which include children, should be considered human rights violations. The worst part however is the lack of regulations and accountability. The major question a reader may ask; "What does Cobalt have to do with me?" Cobalt is sitting in most of our pockets, desks and in electric cars, as it is key component to modern battery technology.
In February SkyTV released a video titled: Unseen Africa which details some of the wonders of the country including the horrible conditions and mining culture in the Congo.
The companies responsible for battery production and the largest buyers of the lithium products require cobalt to improve stability and longevity of the battery cells. The large players responded to the Washington Post, and while companies like LG Chem claim their cobalt is not procured from Congo mines, others like Samsung are doing ongoing investigations. The supply chain is detailed however, processing is mainly done by the Chinese based companies CDM and Huayou. With 60% of the Cobalt coming from the Congo it's extremely hard to imagine that some of the raw material mentioned is not slipping into our products.
As a consumer it's nearly impossible to get transparency as the massive companies who sell these products can easily point the finger down the road.