Thu, Sep 23, 2021

The Dark Side of Congo’s Cobalt Rush

After cobalt was discovered beneath one neighborhood, Congolese began digging under their houses. Some tunnels extended into neighbors’ properties.Illustration by Pola Maneli
After cobalt was discovered beneath one neighborhood, Congolese began digging under their houses. Some tunnels extended into neighbors’ properties. Illustration by Pola Maneli
Global News  | 
The New Yorker

In June, 2014, a man began digging into the soft red earth in the back yard of his house, on the outskirts of Kolwezi, a city in the southern Democratic Republic of the Congo. As the man later told neighbors, he had intended to create a pit for a new toilet. About eight feet into the soil, his shovel hit a slab of gray rock that was streaked with black and punctuated with what looked like blobs of bright-turquoise mold. He had struck a seam of heterogenite, an ore that can be refined into cobalt, one of the elements used in lithium-ion batteries.

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