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Cobalt human rights abuses ‘ignored’
Cobalt and copper mining by some of the largest operators in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is responsible for severe and systematic environmental pollution and human rights violations, according to new evidence from a Dutch NGO. DRC produces half the world’s cobalt and is Africa’s largest producer of copper – both metals that are used in consumer electronics and industrial applications around the world.
Unlike tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, which are known as “conflict minerals” because they are produced in rebel-controlled mines in eastern DRC, copper and cobalt is produced mainly in the more peaceful southern region of Katanga. The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (Somo) says in a new report, Cobalt Blues, that while the mines in Katanga are not controlled by armed rebel groups, “the formal mining industry, controlled by Congolese state-owned and foreign companies, is associated with labour rights violations, community conflicts and land grabs. The industry as a whole creates considerable environmental damage, including biodiversity loss and deforestation, air pollution, and contamination of water with toxic and radioactive elements.”
The report says the DRC government breaks its own laws by, for example, granting mining concessions in protected reserves. Somo...