Publication details


Social impacts of artisanal cobalt mining in Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo


Notebooks, electric cars and their relation with the Congo – Status and perspectives of cobalt mining Between 67,000 and 108,000 workers are involved in the extraction of cobalt in mostly unregistered mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They frequently work under dangerous conditions; fatal accidents are the order of the day. Each year more than one hundred people die in Congolese mines as a result of landslides, shaft collapses and flooding. Child labour is also common: 19,000 to 30,000 children under the age of 15 extract or wash the ore, and separate the extracted minerals. Manufacturers around the world need large quantities of cobalt for the production of batteries for electric vehicles and mobile electronic devices. The Democratic Republic of the Congo supplies 45,000 tons of cobalt each year; and hence, constitutes a little over half of cobalt mining worldwide. At least 60 per cent of this is mined, washed and separated by artisanal miners using the simple tools and methods, after which it is sold to the world market via traders. If this amount of work is perceived at the level of products of our daily consumption, a notebook, for instance, contains ten minutes of labour at artisanal mines in the South-East Congo. For modern hybrid cars, more than six hours of labour at the artisanal mines is needed for each car. Oeko-Institut recommends a stepwise improvement of working conditions at the sites: The formation of miners’ cooperatives, for example, should be supported. There should be simple technical support to improve worker safety and general aspects of the trade of raw materials should be addressed. Workers should have better access to up-to-date market information like ore prices. Currently they are frequently at a systematic disadvantage in price negotiations because they often do not know the real value of the ore they are extracting.

Date:November 28th, 2011
File: OEKO_2011_cobalt_mining_congo.pdf (2.7 MB)
Author/Authors:Prakash, Siddharth
Manhart, Andreas

Öko-Institut e.V.



Topics:Mineral resources and metals