Killing for Cobalt

I saw the trailer for “Blood in the mobile”, which links the cell phone companies to the illegal mining of cassiterite and tantalum in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It can be compared to a big clothing company using hemp produced by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The mines are controlled by guerrillas like the “one” (as if only one group was to blame for everything) responsible for the genocide in Rwanda, which lies just east of DRCongo and the income from the mines keep the guerrillas alive. So, how do we solve the problem of getting important minerals without funding slavery, rape and war? And what’s to stop the guerrillas from using poor people for chopping down rain forest and selling as coal instead and killing gorillas in the process? Here’s one thing you can do. But let’s take a broader view and look at cobalt for an exemplification.

“Swedish chemist Georg Brandt (1694–1768) is credited with discovering cobalt circa 1735… Cobalt would thus become the first new metal to be discovered since the traditional metals known from antiquity, which have no named discoverer.

The stable form of cobalt is created in supernovas… It comprises 0.0029% of the Earth’s crust.

Cobalt is an essential trace element for all animal organisms, as the active center of coenzymes called cobalamins. These include vitamin B12 which is essential for mammals. Cobalt is also an active nutrient for bacteria, algae, and fungi.

Cobalt is used in the preparation of magnetic, wear-resistant, and high-strength alloys.” -wiki

It’s used in all kinds of electronics, which are used in the countries where electricity is abundant, meaning the rich countries, meaning the West, which invaded much of Africa and thereby caused most of the problems of present-day sub-Saharan Africa.

“The copper belt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia yields most of the cobalt metal mined worldwide.

With the Shaba conflict starting in the 1978 the main source for cobalt the copper mines of Katanga Province (south-east DRC) nearly stopped their production.[16][17] The impact on the economy by was smaller than expected because industry established effective ways for recycling cobalt materials and changed to materials without cobalt.[16][17]”  -wiki

This is symptomatic for all natural resources. The conflict made Belgium and the US send weapons to the DRC army. Belgium because they’re to blame for Heart of Darkness along the Congo/Zaire river (Apocalypse Now in Vietnam). It’s the same with the guerrillas in South America that enslave the farmers because they don’t have official papers on owning the land (like the river peoples of South-East Asia and whoever you like) to produce sugar canes for ethanol cars in Europe. Or like the American corporation that produces a vegetable that lessens your hunger, produced in Africa by neighbours of starving people and shipped to the overweight in the US. Or like the EU import taxes that artificially keeps EU farms alive by taxing competition out of the game. Or the US dumping their surplus as aid in Africa, bankrupting the local farmers instead of buying the goods of the local farmers and distributing to the needy. Or like the British occupation of the Suez and Israel that has led to “a lot of problems”. Or like Ethiopia who exports food while people are starving. Or the French gas company funding the Burmese government. I could probably go on for a while. And it’s not just EU and the US. China and other emerging economies also want their share of the world cake. And the locals have to fight amongst themselves for the scraps falling from the rich men’s table. During the slave days, an African was either a capturer or captured.

Swedish Lundin Mining, who spearhead the rich’s exploitation of the poor by directly stealing their land (in the form of minimum wage mining), operate in this area, or Lundin Oil doing what they did in Sudan. Or Shell in Nigeria. Canadian mining company might have to pay.

“The ultimate aim is a viable mining industry in the Congo, which provides jobs and livelihoods to civilians and boosts the country’s economic development. To achieve this, the Congolese government needs to demilitarise the mines, companies need to do better due diligence, and other governments need to hold companies to account and consider making international aid conditional on reforms in the mining sector.” –

So, what do we do?

First, we need to realize that the rich countries are to blame for all of this. The money is forcing people to divide into master and slave. In many parts of Africa there are still ethnic wars going on. Ethnic wars are only ethnic on the surface, what they’re really fighting for is survival as their usual means of support is taken by the rich countries and they’re left with diminishing lands. But not only is the money instigating these wars, but exploiters in all trades fuel the wars and defend themselves by saying “they’re gonna keep fighting whether we’re there or not” or “if we don’t do it, someone even more evil will do it and that’d be even worse for these people”, which is such a short-sighted view and when really bad it’s just a hollow excuse for egotistical exploitation. Corporate social responsibility is a funny thing, but it’s the tame attempt to get people to realize that there’s something wrong with a corporation that is only interested in profit. Of course, CSR is almost a loophole for capitalism as capitalism by definition means profit for the sake of profit and as such can only lead to bad things. The only thing prevent capitalism from even more deaths and wars and rapes and slavery is the fact that the majority of people don’t like profit for the sake of profit. Although it’s hard for the little people to fight against those who do enjoy it at the top of the corporate and governmental pyramids.

Less philosophically though, how do we do it? Awareness, that’s the only solution. Spread the word, read and listen and pass on the information, search out web sites, talk about it at work, create the momentum that will eventually trample the corporations. Politicians will force them to keep track of where they get their resources from. Employees will protest at bad working conditions. Journalists will investigate the mines. Armies will have to weed out corruption. Eventually the West will have to stop torturing others, because all these egotistical policies are short-sighted and in the long run can only lead to… Well, the poor can’t wage war so maybe China and Russia will side with Africa and wage war against US and EU. India got enough problems of their own. Brazil will remain neutral. Europe will change sides like Russia did in WW2 and Israel will be a bloodbath. Then peace and a new era for Africa and China and the Middle East will have to return to Sufis for if they don’t cooperate with the Hindus the desert will shed even more blood. This won’t happen. I’m just saying. And I don’t know the solution, I just want people to become aware of the things that happen around the world.

It might seem like an overwhelming task, but we have the power, we are the people. 6,800,000,000 monkeys can make a difference.


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