Cobalt is an essential mineral for the batteries of smart devices and electric vehicles. Where does it come from? Siddharth Kara, professor and author, gifts us with an unflinching investigation revealing the human rights abuses behind the Congo’s cobalt mining operation. The exposé is precisely wrapped in the pages of his book, “Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives” (St Martins Pr, 2020).
Shortlisted for the Financial Times Best Business Book of the Year Award, Cobal Red is the searing exposure of the toll taken on the people and environment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by cobalt mining. Through the testimonies of the Congolese people themselves, Siddharth Kara expresses his activism and research production by traveling deep into the territory to document human conditions and impacts on the environment.
Uncover truth runs along militia-controlled mining areas, where also children are directly exposed to the toxicity of this system. This mineral is essential to every lithium-ion rechargeable battery made today – we find it in our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and electric vehicles. It is estimated that roughly 75% of the world’s supply of cobalt is mined in the Congo.
Earth.org stresses out that: «Cobalt is fast turning from a miracle metal to a deadly chemical as toxic dumping is devastating landscapes, polluting water, and contaminating crops. High concentrations of cobalt have even been linked to the death of crops and worms, which are vital for soil fertility».
Despite big companies’ pledges to crack down on exploitative practices, Ashley Gilbertson says for The New York Times, much cobalt mining remains unsafe and unregulated. In that scenario, activists’ appeals of big organizations as Amnesty International and watchdog groups as Afterwatch keep on making noise to show off the issue.
Siddharth Kara’s work is crucial, since it provides us with new eyes to look at our prosperity. Human and environmental safety is put in danger to maintain the economic wealth of richer countries. «The world back home no longer makes sense,» he writes. «Clean air and water feel like a crime». His voice has been reaching worldwide media, such as the popular Joe Rogan’s podcast where a long dialogue on the mining activity in the Congo comes to hears of million of listeners.
“Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives”: highly recommend reading. Feelings are expressed through the lens of human beings who expose us to the real, burning, and intense connection among nature treasures and brutal exploitation.
Cover image: Finacial Times.