Cobalt can be sourced responsibly, and it's time to act

(MENAFN- Swissinfo) Business and human rights professor Dorothée Baumann-Pauly calls for human rights to be at the centre of a ''green recovery'' from the coronavirus pandemic and argues the cobalt mining industry is ripe for change.

This content was published on September 16, 2020 - 09:00 September 16, 2020 - 09:00 Professor Dorothée Baumann-Pauly, Director of the Geneva Center for Business and Human Rights at Geneva University''s School for Economics and Management

Electric vehicle sales are booming. With many European governments subsidising electric vehicle purchases and more calls for a ''green recovery'' or to ''build back better'' after Covid-19, this trend is likely to accelerate.

Yet, what is good for the planet currently comes at a high human cost.

An electric vehicle''s battery typically contains around eight kilograms of cobalt – a mineral predominantly mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Between 15 and 30% of the world''s cobalt originates from small, so-called artisanal mines in the DRC, where miners dig 100-metre-deep tunnels to extract the precious metal with basic tools. Fatal accidents and child labour are common, yet these artisanal mines constitute a lifeline for millions of Congolese who have no other source of income.

Faced with these human rights risks, car manufacturers like BMW and Volkswagen, along with industrial mining companies and commodity traders such as Swiss firm Glencore, are trying to avoid either artisanally mined cobalt from the DRC or Congolese cobalt altogether. But rejecting Congolese artisanal mines is not a solution.




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