Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives

by Siddharth Kara

Hardcover, 2023


St. Martin's Press (2023), 288 pages


History. Politics. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML: This program includes an author's note read by the author. An unflinching investigation reveals the human rights abuses behind the Congo's cobalt mining operationâ??and the moral implications that affect us all.Cobalt Red is the searing, first-ever exposĂ© of the immense toll taken on the people and environment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by cobalt mining, as told through the testimonies of the Congolese people themselves. Activist and researcher Siddharth Kara has traveled deep into cobalt territory to document the testimonies of the people living, working, and dying for cobalt. To uncover the truth about brutal mining practices, Kara investigated militia-controlled mining areas, traced the supply chain of child-mined cobalt from toxic pit to consumer-facing tech giants, and gathered shocking testimonies of people who endure immense suffering and even die mining cobalt. Cobalt is an essential component to every lithium-ion rechargeable battery made today, the batteries that power our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and electric vehicles. Roughly 75 percent of the world's supply of cobalt is mined in the Congo, often by peasants and children in sub-human conditions. Billions of people in the world cannot conduct their daily lives without participating in a human rights and environmental catastrophe in the Congo. In this stark and crucial audiobook, Kara argues that we must all care about what is happening in the Congoâ??because we are all implicated. A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member nancyadair
Please tell the people in your country, a child of the Congo dies every day so that they can plug in their phones.
Cobalt Red by Siddharth Kara

II am writing this review on my laptop with a rechargeable battery, looking at my tablet with a rechargeable battery. I brushed my teeth this morning with an
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electric toothbrush with, yes, a rechargeable battery. I wear a smart watch, with a rechargeable battery. And when we trade in our leased car, I expect its replacement choices will all be EV cars.

Like you, my daily life has become reliant on this power source. This life style is made possible because of batteries that use cobalt and are manufactured in China. How many of us know where that cobalt comes from? I know I didn’t. How many of us care care about how it is mined? Or do we merely enjoy the luxury of cutting-edge technology?

Cobalt Red will disturb your content consumerism. You will meet the artisanal, small scale miners who dig up the ore and sell it to a middleman for little money. They are men, women, and children who live in stone-age conditions, without local medical care of schools, without protection from the hazardous work. Siddharth Kara traveled to these mine site and interviewed the workers. They told her that their lives had no value, their deaths counted for nothing.

The history of the Congo is one of exploitation since Europeans found a way into the interior of Africa. It’s political leaders exploited the country’s wealth. It has little infrastructure. The mining companies forced populations off their lands. They had little recourse but to work in small scale mining.

The book held my interest like a good horror story; it was too awful to look away. The author met with the Congolese ambassador. She was told that the Congolese people needed to speak for themselves, it wasn’t the place of a foreigner to make a case for them. But, sadly, their voices have not been heard at conferences or the tech companies that purchase the Congolese cobalt.

I want now to understand how consumers can make an impact. It is too mortally easy to accept that the politically and financially powerless Congolese will be able to pressure for better wages and safe work conditions.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and umniased.
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LibraryThing member LibraryCin
3.5 stars

In the Western world, almost all our technological devices use rechargeable batteries, and with the push to move to more electronic vehicles, there are more and more rechargeables needed. A good amount of cobalt goes into each of those batteries, and the Congo is where you’ll find the
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majority of cobalt to be mined.

Unfortunately the bulk of the people who do that mining are “artisanal” miners – they are mining on their own, so to speak; they are not employed by any company. They are extremely poor and have no other options to make money. Their kids could go to school, but even though it’s supposed to be free, it is not funded well-enough for that to be the case and they need to pay. Most families cannot afford to pay, so their kids also have to go to work mining. There are no health or safety standards and when people die or are injured not only is no one held accountable, no one is there to help pay medical bills. What they are paid for the cobalt they mine (putting their lives at risk) is next to nothing.

The author travels to mines and through villages in the Congo, talking to the people mining. He tries to talk to some of the companies paying for the cobalt (and some of the middlemen), but there are only a few who will talk to him.

This was interesting and so very sad. I didn’t rate it higher, though, as I did lose interest occasionally. That might have been due to other things on my mind, I’m not sure.
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LibraryThing member PitcherBooks
What would you give up to save your child from being trafficked into slave labor? Or to save your sister from sexual assault? Or to keep your spouse safe from deadly working conditions? Your cell phone? Your laptop? Your robot vacuum? Your electric car?
70% of rechargeable batteries rely on
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enslaved children. There is no 'clean' pipeline for cobalt. Exploited and oppressed, sick and injured, paid less than $2 day (half that for women & kids). Kids as young as eight are expected to mine cobalt from dawn to dusk. Women miners are frequent victims of assault and rape. Men, women and children are exposed to deadly levels of radiation and toxic ores. So we can take a selfie.
American citizens still encourage and condone slavery. Lincoln may have freed the slaves in the USA but corporations now use slaves where you and I can't see the horror and disgrace for ourselves up close and personal. And that gives the end-users like us plausible deniability. We can say we didn't know as if that exempts us from culpability when we buy all the cheap goods made in 3rd world countries reliant on abused, underpaid, malnourished, slave labor.
So the DRC and its people have been exploited for centuries by greedy bastards from other countries. But we demand it. You & I. Because everyone likes a good deal. And corporate flaks mouth corporate propaganda to let each of us pretend that we each have a clean slate. We don't.
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LibraryThing member Moshepit20
"Tell people in their country that a child dies every day in my country [Democratic Republic of Congo] so they can plug in their phones"

Such a difficult subject matter but such a well written book that brought awareness to such a terrible humanitarian issue that will continue to get worse as our
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dependence on electric things becomes more rampant.
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