Cobalt (Co) is a chemical element that is found in lithium-ion batteries. These types of batteries are essential to our everyday lives—from our smartphones to our cars, cobalt lithium-ion batteries are found in millions of electronic devices. However, the cost of using cobalt batteries isn’t necessarily monetary.
In order to make cobalt batteries, miners must extract the element from the land. Cobalt mining is often unethical, harming not only the environment but the workers who risk their lives extracting this chemical.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at how cobalt is mined.
How Is Cobalt Mined?
Cobalt comes from the earth in the form of mined metals. Open-pit mining is the most common method of extracting this element for batteries. These mines are predominantly located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where cobalt is extracted and sold to be used in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries. While the Congo has a tremendous amount of natural resources which help supply the world with energy, the individuals mining this product suffer greatly due to the makeshift conditions in which they operate.
Considering the fact that cobalt is extremely toxic and releases harmful emissions into the environment, mining of this material poses a major health concern for individuals living near cobalt mines. Children that are born in these mining areas can suffer both physiological and neurological damage from excess exposure to the element.
Miners of this element spend long days mining in dangerous conditions where they are overworked, extremely underpaid, and have little to no rights. It’s not uncommon for children to work in the mines, whether out of necessity to help provide for their families or as forced labor.
As more companies slowly become aware of the toll that their batteries are having on the environment and workers, some are starting to switch to greener alternatives such as manganese-based batteries. However, as long as cobalt batteries are in demand, cobalt batteries are mined and unethical working and environmental conditions continue.
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