The cobalt pipeline (30/09/2016)

Un formidable reportage sur les mines de cobalt en RDC qui exploitent hommes et enfants pour nourrir nos téléphones mobiles et nos portables


(…)”No one knows exactly how many children work in Congo’s mining industry. UNICEF in 2012 estimated that 40,000 boys and girls do so in the country’s south. A 2007 study funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development found 4,000 children worked at mining sites in Kolwezi alone.Local government officials say they lack the resources to address the problem“.

We have a big challenge with the children, because it is difficult to take them out of the mines when there are no schools for these children to go to,” said Muyej, the provincial governor. “We have to find a solution for this.”(…)

One of these children is Delphin Mutela, a quiet boy who looks younger than his 13 years“.

When he was about 8, his mother began taking Delphin with her on her trips to the river to clean cobalt ores. Washing minerals is a popular job for women here. At first, Delphin was tasked with keeping an eye on his siblings. But he learned to distinguish the loose mineral pieces that fell into the water during washing.Copper carried a hint of green.Cobalt looked like dark chocolate.

If he could collect enough bits, he could get paid, maybe $1. (…)
Cobalt is the most expensive raw material inside a lithium-ion battery.That has long presented a challenge for the big battery suppliers — and their customers, the computer and car makers. Engineers have tried for years to craft cobalt-free batteries. But the mineral best known as a blue pigment has a unique ability to boost battery performance.The price of refined cobalt has fluctuated in the past year from $20,000 to $26,000 a ton.

Lire le reportage sur le site du Washington Post