Cobalt is used to build lithium-ion batteries found in mobile technology. Much of it comes from Congo, where men, women, and children endure dangerous and unhealthy conditions to satisfy our hunger for new devices. It’s time we paid attention.
You are probably reading this article on a tablet, smartphone, or laptop computer. If so, your device could very well contain cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, an impoverished yet mineral-rich nation in central Africa, that provides 60 percent of the world’s cobalt. (The remaining 40 percent is sourced in smaller amounts from a number of other nations, including China, Canada, Russia, Australia and the Philippines.)
Cobalt is used to build rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, an integral part of the mobile technology that has become commonplace in recent years. Tech giants such as Apple and Samsung, as well as automakers like Tesla, GM, and BMW, which are starting to produce electric cars on a mass scale, have an insatiable appetite for cobalt. But unfortunately, this appetite comes at a high cost, both for humans and for the environment.
An excellent investigative piece by the Washington Post called “The cobalt pipeline: From dangerous tunnels in Congo to consumers’ mobile tech” explores the source of this valuable mineral that everyone relies on, yet knows little about.