'Subhuman' toil: Rogan guest rips Chinese exploitation of Congolese mining cobalt for EV batteries
The Democratic Republic of the Congo supplies 70% of the world's cobalt, but 80% of the mines are owned or financially backed by China-based entities.
Miners in Chinese-controlled Congolese cobalt mines "dig in absolutely subhuman, gut-wrenching conditions for $1 a day" to extract the metal integral to the production of rechargeable batteries such as those in electric vehicles, smartphones and laptops, activist Siddharth Kara said last week on the "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast.
"Throughout the whole history of slavery, I mean, 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," said Kara, who teaches at both Harvard and Berkeley.
"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," he explained.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo supplies 70% of the world's cobalt, but 80% of the mines are owned or financially backed by China-based entities, according to Michigan State University.
Militias and warlords have forced the local population at gunpoint to mine for materials for first-generation phones in the Congo, but cobalt took off about a decade ago, according to Kara.
"Before anybody knew what was happening," he said, "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 $1 a day, feeding cobalt up the supply chain into all the phones, all the tablets, and especially electric cars."
Kara said he has never seen a cobalt mine that uses proper safety equipment and does not use child labor or slavery.