Cobalt mining transforms city in Democratic Republic of the Congo - satellite imagery shows - VIDEO -

22 March, Wednesday

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Cobalt mining transforms city in Democratic Republic of the Congo - satellite imagery shows - VIDEO

Much of the world's cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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As officials around the world call for a transition to a greener economy, one city is being transformed to accommodate the growing demand for one important mineral: cobalt.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo produces an estimated 70% of the world's cobalt, and most of it comes from the city of Kolwezi. Cobalt, which is mainly produced as a byproduct of copper and nickel, was ignored for a long time in favor of those more in-demand minerals. But now, the world is turning to it for its essential role in lithium-ion batteries for phones and electric vehicles, or EVs.
The Biden administration in January released a memorandum of understanding with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighboring Zambia, outlining plans to help strengthen the African countries' EV battery supply chain.
Satellite imagery provided by Planet Labs shows the dramatic growth of copper and cobalt mines in and around Kolwezi over the last 5 years as demand has skyrocketed.
The mines aren't only growing around the city, they are often creeping into people's neighborhoods. These satellite images of the west of the city reveal entire streets have disappeared over the last few years.
This rapid growth has changed the area as more land is conceded to mines. Anaïs Tobalagba, a policy researcher for RAID, a corporate watchdog organization, said the expansion has caused problems.
"A lot of the people who live on these lands have to be relocated. So they have to reinvent their livelihoods. And most of the time, you know, it's being faced with more and more poverty," she said.
This mining boom has also led many to turn to the industry for work. And while many work for established industrial mines and the large mining companies, many more work as artisanal miners, digging in informal pits alongside thousands in a cooperative without professional, large-scale equipment. Artisanal and small-scale mining are estimated to employ an estimated 200,000 people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and over a million more are indirectly involved through trade and transport.


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