MMore than half of the world’s processed cobalt ore comes from the Kadanga region in the south of the country, a U.S. research team writes in a current study in “One Earth” magazine. According to analyzes, there is a wild western mentality in the mining areas, which often do not comply with social, labor law, health or environmental standards. Although most of the cobalt in Kadanga is cut in industry, 15 to 20 per cent of the total is cut by about 110,000 to 150,000 workers in small-scale mining.
A team from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, studied the effects of ASM on the working and living conditions of people in the province of Lualaba, part of Katanga. Although the federal government has designated special mining zones, minerals are being sought at the edge of these areas – in numerous, arbitrarily dug and unprotected shafts and mines.
“You might think mining is digging into something,” Chera Young, an associate professor at Northwest University, said in her university statement. “But they do not dig in the open ground. Residential land is being dug up. People are really digging holes in their living rooms. “
Most ASMs in Lualaba are controlled by cooperatives established by local businesses or foreign investors, the group writes. Such cooperatives will enter into agreements with local mining companies.
To become a member of a co-operative, workers must pay an annual fee of US $ 15 (approximately 13 euros). In addition, there are many unorganized miners who mine and sell cobalt on their own. The two groups are not clearly defined by each other because workers often wander in search of highly productive deposits.
Cooperatives are said to actually comply with safety and environmental standards. However, as a rule, this is not verified. Cobalt extracted ore is therefore often cut with a hammer and chisel or simple hand tools such as picks.
According to the report, only men are allowed to dig in the trunks, some of which are more than 30 meters deep. Accordingly, women work above ground, and child labor is common in mining areas. The extracted minerals are transported to streams, lakes or bodies of water for washing and sorting.
The ore containing cobalt is then generally sold in 25-kg sacks. For a sack containing 1.5 percent cobalt, the co-op pays workers about 25 US dollars (22 euros). In turn, the co-operatives continued to sell sacks to workers at prices usually unknown.
Workers unrelated to the co-operatives can sell their wares directly and negotiate the price themselves, but then dig the metal themselves. “You have to take care of your own mineral deposits, which are dangerous, but ineffective.”
Those in ASM do not have a fixed salary or a fixed workload. “The fee depends only on the amount of cobalt extracted and the market price for the 25-kg sack,” the panel explains. “Miners often work to maximize their income (sometimes day and night) as much as they can.”
The group points to land grabbing and the displacement of people living on cobalt deposits as a major social problem. Traditionally, the country belonged to the respective municipalities. According to the report, their leaders are heavily influenced by the mining companies that want to mine cobalt – for example offers for cash, gifts or school building.
Anyone who is unable to prove their claim to a property that is traditionally customary will generally be evicted without compensation. “This is our country, we have always lived here,” the group quoted a resident of Casulo as saying. Some people create fake property documents not only to get compensation but also to snatch our land from us.
The opportunity for a better income attracts many expatriates to the area, the report says. They formed their own settlements there and their own administrative structures, which also led to conflicts. “Violence is common and has a negative impact on living conditions in Lualaba,” the group writes. “During our stay, participants reported conflicts between different ethnic groups, especially migrant workers and locals.”
According to the study, another problem is about the environment and the health of the locals because in many places the mine pollutes the soil, air and water. For example, water in extracted mineral wash areas is no longer suitable for drinking and is unusable for many purposes. “Farmland is also becoming infertile due to toxins and pollutants emanating from the cobalt mine.” Thus, agricultural yields deteriorated in many places, and some had to buy food across the border in neighboring Zambia.
Another health risk is working on the stems, which are often at risk of collapsing, the researchers write. Usually there is no occupational safety. When they went to such small mines, they did not notice any safety measures: the rods were generally unprotected and there were no facilities such as rails or warning signs.
The panel emphasizes the need to report not only to decision makers from politics and business, but also to consumers: the development, finance and utilization of green energy, for example, not only technically, but also socially and ethically. Responsibility.