Communication technology has advanced at an incredible rate over the last few decades and none more so than in mobile phone devices.
It really is not so long ago that a cell phone,as it was then called, had to be transported about in a mini suitcase. The device itself was massive and you used it to phone people.
Today we have mobile phones where we can do hundreds of other things on it apart from phoning people. Indeed using it as an actual telephone is not what attracts customers to the devices.
Accessing the internet, gaming, gambling, going on social media, taking photos, texting,banking, travel information: all these things and more you can do on a mobile phone. And, of course, all the time you are leaving a record of where you are at a given time.
It’s also the fashion to change your mobile phone regularly and there is a wide range in prices.
But what is the actual cost of your mobile phone?
Cobalt is quite a rare metal which is found in the Earth’s crust.
It is used to produce alloys and hard metals. If the dust is ingested it can cause serious issues in the respiratory system.
The respiratory system is the main target organ (asthma, fibrosing alveolitis, lung cancer) on inhalation exposure to cobalt, with a higher risk of fibrosing alveolitis (hard metal disease) and lung cancer in the hard metal industry, where workers are exposed to cobalt metal mixed with tungstencarbide particles. Cobalt an overview, Dominique Lison
The demand for cobalt has increased at a phenomenal rate because it is used in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for smartphones and electric cars.
60% of cobalt is supplied by the mineral-rich Katanga copper belt, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Researchers at KU Leuven (Belgium) and the University of Lubumbashi have been studying the consequences on the humans who mine the cobalt and those who live nearby.
Professor Nemery, a doctor-toxicologist at the KU Leuven Department of Public Health and Primary Care, said:
“Children living in the mining district had 10 times as much cobalt in their urine as children living elsewhere. Their values were much higher than what we’d accept for European factory workers. This study may be limited in scope, but the results are crystal-clear. The differences cannot be attributed to coincidence.”
“Furthermore, we found more DNA damage in children living in the mining area than in those from the control group. And the preliminary results of an ongoing study suggest that miners’ newborn babies have an increased risk of birth defects.” Sustainability of artisanal mining of cobalt in DR Congo
It’s not just the serious health and environmental issues that the mining of cobalt at such an increased rate is the problem.
Many of the mines that have sprung up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are run with no thought to safety, workers are exploited some of whom are children and more recent evidence is now coming to light that children are also being sexually abused.
In June 2019 a copper and cobalt mine collapsed killing 43 miners. The Kamoto Copper Company, is a subsidiary of Swiss mining giant Glencore, based near Lualaba’s main city of Kolwezi.
International Rights Activists are taking the Tech giants to court. Firms including Apple, Google, Tesla, Microsoft, Dell and 2 mining corporations: Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt and Glencore, are being sued for damages over the deaths of child miners.
The lawsuit which is being filed in the USA accuses the international companies of knowingly being part of the exploitative supply chain of cobalt.
In our thirst to stay connected at all times; in our pursuit of transport which is a greener, cleaner, electric future; it is not us who will pay the heaviest price. The cost is borne by the miners, many of whom are children of D R Congo.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame