Transitional minerals in the DRC: putting citizens in control
Copper and cobalt are two of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) biggest exports.
Cobalt is one of the world’s most sought after minerals: a key component in the lithium-ion batteries which power electric vehicles (EVs), as well as mobile batteries and laptops. Copper is used in renewable energy systems to generate power from solar, hydro, thermal and wind energy across the world.
The DRC is the world’s biggest cobalt miner and Africa’s leading copper producer.
But in Lualaba and Haut-Katanga – the two southern provinces which are the heartland of DRC’s cobalt and copper mining industries – human rights abuses and environmental destruction are rife, while local people have been largely excluded from the profits and employment opportunities generated by the influx of international mining companies.
The US Department of Labour has estimated that around 35,000 children work in DRC’s cobalt mines, mostly in artisanal and small-scale mines, where people who are not officially employed by mining companies, gather minerals in often deplorable conditions and sell them to middlemen on open markets.
Artisanal miners and other local residents have suffered violence and even death at the hands of security forces for encroaching on industrial mining sites.