Child and Forced Labor in Artisanal Cobalt Mining in the Congo: New Cobalt Fund supports “GoodStone™” Initiative
Cobalt is used in almost every lithium-ion rechargeable battery on the planet, ending up in supply chains of smartphones, tablets, laptops, electric vehicles and other major consumer electronic products. The market for these batteries is growing rapidly, estimated to be fourfold by 2030. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) sits on the world’s largest cobalt deposits, representing more than 70% of global supply, and approximately one-third of this cobalt is extracted from artisanal miners, through a hidden economy where children and adults toil as slaves. For their backbreaking efforts, toxic exposure, immense suffering, and risk of death, artisanal miners typically earn between $0.75 and $2.50 per day.
There is currently no way to verify that the end products containing lithium-ion rechargeable batteries by your favorite mobile phone or electric car company are clean from worker exploitation or environmental harm.
About the GoodStone™ Initiative
Through our new GoodStone™ initiative, GoodWeave International and front-line partners in the DRC plan to pilot a project to address child and forced labor in artisanal cobalt mining. This work will include assessing the feasibility of a standard, similar to the GoodWeave Standard, to ensure international human rights and sustainability requirements are maintained by participating mining operations in the DRC. GoodStone™ will also seek pathways to transition children out of artisanal mining and address the root causes of labor exploitation in artisanal cobalt mining through rights awareness, financial literacy and other critical support.
GoodStone™ advisors maintain strong ties to governments in the mining provinces of Lualaba and Haut-Katanga known as “the Copper Belt” where millions of vulnerable Congolese people live and work. Project interventions will engage and include stakeholders in this region, including cobalt miners, artisanal mining cooperatives, community-based organizations and other NGOs; provincial governments; national actors, like the Ministry of Mines, and companies sourcing lithium-ion batteries.
How You Can Help
GoodWeave has established a special Cobalt Fund supporting the design phase work to develop the GoodStone™ initiative, as well as provide support to front-line human rights groups addressing urgent needs of artisanal cobalt miners currently facing exploitation.
Your donation to the Cobalt Fund will go directly to this new work to restore rights to artisanal cobalt miners in the DRC. DONATE NOW.
For more information, email GoodStone@goodweave.org.
- Kara, Siddharth. “Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives.” St. Martin’s Press, January 31, 2023. Kara is a leading author, researcher, and activist on modern slavery and child labor, and a GoodWeave Board Member.
- Baumann-Pauly, Dorothée. “Cobalt Mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Addressing Root Causes of Human Rights Abuses.” Geneva Center for Business and Human Rights & NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, February 2023.
- “How ‘Modern-Day Slavery’ Powers the Rechargeable Battery Economy”, NPR’s Fresh Air, February 1, 2023
- “Shocking Truths Behind Smartphone and EV Batteries: Children Mining Cobalt”, Newsweek Magazine, January 25, 2023
- “Clean Energy’s Dirty Secret—Human Rights Abuses in Cobalt Mining”, Newsweek Magazine, January 25, 2023
- “How Is Your Phone Powered? Problematically.”, The New York Times, January 23, 2023
Photos: © Siddharth Kara