The article reports:
The appetite for electric cars is driving a boom in small-scale cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where some mines have been found to be dangerous and employ child labor.
Production from so-called artisanal mines probably rose by at least half last year, according to the estimates of officials at three of the biggest international suppliers of the metal, who asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak on the matter. State-owned miner Gecamines estimates artisanal output accounted for as much as a quarter of the country’s total production in 2017.
That’s a concern for carmakers from Volkswagen AG to Tesla Inc., who are seeking to secure long-term supplies of the battery ingredient but don’t want to be enmeshed in a scandal about unethical mining practices. Tech giants including Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. endured bad publicity after a 2016 Amnesty International report said children were being sent down some Congolese mines to dig for cobalt destined for their gadgets. Pit and tunnel collapses killed dozens of workers in 2015, the advocacy group said.
The article also notes that as much as $2.5 billion of cobalt a year is being smuggled across the border into Zambia.
I am sure there are safer ways to mine cobalt. The fact that children are being used in these mines in this dangerous work is horrendous. I realize that the culture of the countries involved may allow for children to do this work, but this is one situation where the United Nations might be useful. There are organizations within the United Nations that are supposed to protect children–they need to at least make a statement on the use of children to mine cobalt.
The idea of electric cars is intriguing; however, we need to look at the cost of creating this technology.