Whilst the news of Britain’s pledge to ban the sale of both petrol and diesel cars in favour of electric vehicles by 2040 sounds positive at first, reports have stated that there is a very serious downside that has recently been revealed.
According to reports, children as young as four years old are working in mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to check the rocks for signs of cobalt, which is used to create the batteries that power the electric cars. The investigation found that there are currently around 40,000 children working daily in the polluted, dusty mines for as little as 8p a day. The Daily Mail claimed that the majority of big motor manufacturers producing electric vehicles currently purchase their cobalt from the impoverished central African state, as it is the world’s biggest producer of the chemical element.
The labour is not regulated, and the recent announcement of the move to electric vehicles has increased demand heavily to prepare for this, due to each electric car needing an average of 15kg (33lb) of cobalt to be manufactured.
No protective clothing is provided to the miners who venture 600ft below the surface to dig out the rocks by hand. Mining in these conditions has many health risks, one being a specific respiratory disease called ‘cobalt lung’ which can even lead to death. The UN estimates that around 80 children a year die from this mining practice, although many deaths go unregistered and the bodies are buried underneath the collapsed tunnels.
Despite a DRC law forbidding the enslavement of young children, according to reports this is not enforced. The Daily Mail stated that, “the UN’s International Labour Organisation has described cobalt mining in DRC as ‘one of the worst forms of child labour’ due to the health risks”.
I am Jess Murray, wildlife conservationist, photographer and writer. I like to document the natural world and create awareness through my writing so that your future can be sustainable and positive. Follow my Facebook page and Instagram account to be part of the journey.