Ij reportika Logo

The Chinese Cruel Cobalt Conundrum: A ground report from Congo

“The partnership between DRC and China … my country did not get anything out of the Sino Congolaise des Mines (Sicomines) agreement” Muzito (Between 2008 to 2012, Muzito was the prime minister of the DRC) Download the complete report Our reporters visited the DRC and spoke with numerous adults and children employed in the cobalt mines. They spent weeks conducting extensive research using both online and offline sources. The primary conclusions and complete report on the “Chinese Cruel Cobalt Conundrum” are provided below. Key Findings China and Cobalt China has invested heavily in the cobalt industry in recent years, as cobalt is a key material used in the production of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and other electronics. The exact total investment of China in cobalt is difficult to quantify as China keeps such data highly censored yet Ij-Reportika has estimated that China leads the world in refined cobalt production at 70% of total global supply; According to a report by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 2022, China was the largest producer of refined cobalt and the largest importer of cobalt-containing intermediate products in the world. In 2022, there was a boom in the production of Cobalt. With 130,000 tonnes of cobalt produced in 2022, the Democratic Republic of the Congo(DRC) was the world’s largest source of mined cobalt, accounting for about 68% of the global cobalt mine production. In the complete report, we have covered all the mines under Chinese ownership. One such example is the Tenke Fungurume Mine (TFM). Freeport-McMoRan Inc. and BHR’s 56% and 24% equity in the TFM copper-cobalt company in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were successfully acquired by China Molybdenum Co., Ltd. in 2016 and 2019, respectively. 80% of the total equity in TFM is presently held by China Molybdenum Co., Ltd. (CMOC). Through its directly controlled wholly-owned subsidiary in Hong Kong, CMOC DRC Limited, the China Molybdenum Co., Ltd. gained influence over the TFM copper-cobalt business in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The mine is expected to operate until 2052. This mine has been the center of controversies since CMOC  took over the majority shares of TFM.  The mine has long been an important stop for Tenke residents, who believe it to be part of their land. The Congolese military was sent to monitor the mine for several months by the CMOC  to stop this from happening. Recently, one of these natives was struck dead by the patrolling army. Another individual died as a result of the protests that erupted after the terrible killing. Security at the mine is supplemented by the private security company Frontier Services Group or 先丰服务集团 (Chinese Africa-focused security, aviation, and logistics company). Our ground reporter visited the mine and observed that most of the native workers were not equipped with the security gear to mine cobalt. The Causes of Concern Chinese mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has caused several problems, including: Environmental degradation Cobalt mining in the DRC involves the use of heavy machinery, which damages the environment and destroys habitats for plants and animals. The mining process also releases toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the soil and water, causing pollution and health risks. The Tunnels to Hell The official limit of tunnel length is 30 meters, however, this is frequently exceeded. Tunnels can reach heights of up to 90 meters because of poor administration and a lack of incentives to follow rules, which puts people in danger of landslides, collapse, and death. In the course of compiling this report, we discovered many such tunnels. They were extremely hot from the inside and had a lack of Oxygen. We found that, in the DRC alone, artisanal miners have dug approximately 20,000 tunnels by hand. Without a PPE kit, safety helmet, safety (hard) shoes, or gloves, the miners get into the structure. Instead of using modern, complex, and advanced technologies to dig the tunnel, they used simple instruments like hammers, gardening hoes, shafts, and even sticks and bare hands. These tunnels frequently collapse, crushing everyone within, including minors, alive. It’s a death that’s almost impossible to fathom being so horrible. These tales never transcend Congo as the world simply ignores their stories. Land conflicts Cobalt mining in the DRC has often resulted in land conflicts between local communities, mining companies, and government authorities. The government has granted mining concessions to Chinese companies without consulting local communities, leading to the displacement of people and the destruction of their livelihoods. One such case study is unfolding these days in the city of Kolwezi. Victor Fwamba, seeing an open-cast cobalt mine in Kolwezi, in the southeast of the DRC, remarked, “We’re doomed”. Kolwezi, which is home to more than 5,00,000 people, is situated atop some of the greatest mineral reserves in the world, a gold, copper, and cobalt treasure trove that powers the economies of many countries mining from them. A moat of industrial mines, a sand moonscape with gigantic open pits, access roads, and pylons already encircle the city. Yet, mining operations are encroaching farther and deeper into the city proper, uprooting thousands of residents who frequently complain about the unjust treatment. Ground reporter of IJ-Reportika talked to 7400 Congolese miners in Sicomines Copper-Cobalt Mine, Tenke Fungurume Mine, and  Kolwezi Mines. Around 6077 i.e. 82% reported skin problems, 6317 i.e. 85.4% reported breathing issues and 3899 i.e 52.7% reported that they suffered major injuries in the past 1 year. To the amazement of our ground reporters, 937 miners even said someone close to them died in the past 2 years due to the disease/ injuries/mines collapse caused by the Cobalt Mining operations. Human Rights Abuses There have been reports of human rights abuses in cobalt mines in the DRC, including child labor, forced labor, and unsafe working conditions. Many of the workers are poorly paid and work in dangerous conditions without proper safety equipment or training. We found out that children as young as six years old are working in…

Read More