采访最前线：刚果血钴 Blood Cobalt in Congo Foreign Correspondent 20220224(中）
(WOMEN SING) MICHAEL DAVIE: The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the poorest countries on Earth. But it holds the world's richest deposits of cobalt. Now the race is on to mine the metal essential to making electric car batteries. This is what people in this region are digging and dying for.
It's dangerous work. The massive industrial mines, mostly Chinese-owned, are a law unto themselves. Corruption and violence are rampant.
Small scale or artisanal miners who work on the fringes of the big mines risk arrest, even death. Many are children. (WOMAN WEEPS) This report exposes the brutal cost of our green energy revolution. Are we under arrest? It's a story many don't want told.
Put your camera down, camera down, camera down. (WOMEN SING AND CLAP) (TRUCK ENGINES RUMBLE) 70% of the world's cobalt comes from the Congo. The country is deeply troubled. Decades of conflict have destroyed its economy and its health and education systems. Millions live on less than $2 a day.
As demand for this metal has surged, Congolese have flooded into the south of the country, looking to make a buck from the boom. Some have been lucky to find jobs in the big mines. Most, like Mama Natalie and her sons, John and King, scratch out a living digging for cobalt in the waste that the industrial mines discard. (HORN BLARES)(HORN BLARES) MAMA NATALIE: Mama Natalie and her family are artisanal miners, workers who extract the metal by hand in illegal or semi-regulated sites.
These miners produce up to 30% of the Congo's cobalt. Every day, before the security guards arrive, they climb the embankments of this Chinese-owned mine and join hundreds of other families in search of cobalt. They're trespassing, so they have to work fast. Security often beat, arrest and even shoot artisanal miners.
Almost as soon as they begin, it's time to leave. (PERSON WHISTLES) The mine's security teams are on their way. When the patrollers break for lunch, Natalie and her boys will dig for another hour. If they find enough cobalt, they'll eat tonight.
(BOYS SING) (OMINOUS DRUMMING) (CYCLING THROUGH RADIO STATIONS) (GATE SQUEAKS) In Congo, artisanal mining can be a deadly business. I've just received on my phone a really disturbing video. It shows a mine that has just collapsed and it buried alive six, seven, eight miners. And I'd heard that these kinds of cave-ins happen all the time in this region, but even still, it's really quite confronting to see it on video like that.
And what's more, I'm now actually on my way to visit a person whose story I know is just going to rip my heart out. I'm on my way to meet a mother who lost her 13-year-old son in a similar accident. (SPEAKS LOCAL LANGUAGE) We're looking for Mama Nicole. Do you know Mama Nicole?
Yes. Can you show us? Would you mind showing us? No problem. Yeah? Yes, I can show you. Ah. Mama Nicole? (SPEAKS LOCAL LANGUAGE) Michael. This is Carine. Can you tell me his name? Deomba. He's a really handsome young guy.
What was he like? Deomba was Mama Nicole's first born. I'm so sorry. Mama Nicole and her family live right on the edge of the giant Chinese-owned Congo Dongfang International Mining concession, also known as CDM.
Deomba collected cobalt in the waste on the edge of the mine.。 When the mine embankment collapsed, he and his friend were buried alive. Is that area protected at all? Are there fences around it that stop... ..to stop children getting in there? Did the mining company take any responsibility? Nothing? Yes.
Under Congolese law, the company has an obligation to ensure the mine doesn't pose a threat to the communities around it. When you look around here, there's just children everywhere. You know, three-, four-, five-year-olds everywhere. And this mine is 750 metres away and there are no fences protecting this community full of children from what is obviously a very dangerous mining area. The body of Deomba was dug up and brought home for a proper burial.
His family haven't yet been able to afford a cross and his grave remains unmarked. The CDM mine is a subsidiary of the Chinese multi-national Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, one of the world's biggest cobalt producers. For years, Huayou supplied cobalt to battery makers who in turn supplied companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Volkswagen.
In 2016, Amnesty International concluded Huayou was probably buying cobalt from artisanal mines where children worked in hazardous conditions. The company pledged to stop the practice. But I've heard CDM is still doing it. Alright. The Chinese industrial miners are notoriously secretive. Getting answers from them is difficult.
I gotta make sure that that doesn't poke out. I'm putting a hidden camera in my shirt.。 That's better.
I'm going to pay CDM a visit. (HORN BEEPS) Outside CDM's main cobalt depot, I approach the gate. The depot is protected by presidential guardsmen, soldiers deployed by the highest echelon of the Congolese government, and it's clear I won't be allowed inside. And I'm curious, does CDM buy artisanal mined cobalt? CDM is buying artisanal cobalt from outside of their own property? (EXHALES DEEPLY) If what the guard says is true, then CDM has breached Congolese law, which bans buying cobalt from unregulated artisanal miners.
And it's betrayed its clients who have policies against child labour. We asked Huayou for a response but we haven't heard back. Huayou has also pledged to improve the lives of the people who live around its mines. But in Mama Nicole's village, there's little evidence of that.
She and her family can barely afford the cross for her son's grave. MAN: Mama. Yeah? En route to the cemetery, we're stopped.
Behind me over there where that crowd is gathered is the chief of this district, and he is trying to extort a bribe to allow Mama Nicole to go and place a cross on the grave of her son. We pay the bribe. Only then are we allowed to continue. (WAILS) No! No! No! (SOBS, SPEAKS FOREIGN LANGUAGE) (MAN SHOUTS IN FRENCH) (MAN REPLIES) 500 metres from where Mama Nicole's son is buried, we find this mine, teeming with children. It's Congolese-owned. Government attempts to stop children working in the mines have been made to appease big battery buyers, like Microsoft, Apple and Tesla.
But they're not having much impact here. Most of the boys here are between 12 and 16 years old. Their job is to haul sacks of cobalt-rich dirt from the pit onto the trucks. It takes 1,200 sacks of cobalt to fill that truck， and this crew of boys fill that truck twice a day. A crew of even younger boys, five- and six-year-olds, collect the sacks, and return them to the pit. (GRUNTS) Oh, my gosh.
That has got to be...I reckon that's got to be 30-40 kilos, at least. Man, that's heavy. Everyone here works without safety gear. Prolonged exposure to cobalt can lead to cancer, lung disease, and heart failure. I ask the mine manager why the boys aren't at school.
Camera down, camera down. Hi. MAN: Bonjour.
The police arrive. The police chief pulls our local producer aside for a quick chat. So we have to pay him? 20, yeah. 20 bucks? Later. Later. Not now. Later. OK. But he's a cop, right? He's a policeman? He's a commissioner.
He's the police commissioner? Yes, of course. The mines police representative in this area. And that's the sad truth of it. Despite the government ban on children working in the mines, there's little enforcement on the ground. Careful, careful. The police commissioner offers to show me a different type of artisanal mining.
We enter an area riddled with hand-dug tunnel mines. Tunnel mining is the most dangerous method of cobalt extraction. Bonjour. A team of miners agree to take our cameras down.
First they descend a 6-metre shaft, barefoot.。 There are no structural supports down here, nothing to keep the roof from collapsing. The men film rich nuggets of copper and cobalt, but they can't extract them without risking a cave-in. They enter a long horizontal tunnel.
I can hear their voices. I can hear them digging. I mean, if a tunnel like this collapsed, there would just be absolutely no way of getting them out. There's nothing around here for miles.。 Finally, 25 metres underground, the men dig again, unearthing more cobalt. After 20 minutes they head up.
There's not enough oxygen for them to stay longer. Aha. So this is...this is cobalt. This is what people in this region are digging and dying for. I've never seen it up close like this before. You can see it's an iridescent green.
Quite beautiful in its own way. I want to investigate where the cobalt from unregulated artisanal miners ends up and who buys it. We're on our way to the cobalt market. It's a place that's very wary of cameras.
Journalists in the past have had a lot of trouble getting in there. Technically, it's illegal for anybody but a Congolese person to buy cobalt in the Congo. But I've been told Chinese traders are running this market. So, you see that motorcycle up ahead of us with sacks strapped to the back? Those sacks are full of cobalt. That's a small artisanal miner who's heading to the market.
The motorbike enters a compound, and I follow. Inside are dozens of men weighing and stacking massive sacks of raw cobalt under the supervision of a Chinese buyer.。 Hi. What's your name? My name is Sun Dung Jien. Sun Dung Jien. Where are you from? Shanghai? Beijing? Beijing.
Beijing. Ah. OK. All of it goes to China. Congolese men are testing the purity of the cobalt, which is toxic.
Chinese bosses watch from behind glass in an adjacent room. Outside, my crew is watching the warehouse from our vehicle. They have seen the camera. The guys have.
Which camera? What do you mean? What did they see? On Michael. The hidden camera on Michael. OK. The crew calls my phone to warn me. Let's get out of here. Let's go. Let's go. Let's go. Let's go. Quickly. Let's go.
That was stressful. The warehouse I was just in isn't unique. Dozens of them line this road.
This is where thousands of tonnes of cobalt, some mined by children, begin their journey into the global supply chain. While this cobalt won't be sold directly to companies like Apple and Tesla, it will be distributed on the international market. Further up the supply chain, it's likely it will be combined with so-called clean cobalt and used to make phones, laptops and electric cars.
In the last decade, the Chinese have taken over the cobalt mines here and control global supply. They now operate 15 of the 19 biggest mines in the Congo. That could be it there. I see a three-storey building over there. I want to know what's changed for the locals.
A whistleblower has agreed to tell me. Hi. Thank you very much for meeting us. 'Cause you work, from what I understand, inside a big mine. Is that right?
What are the working conditions like? They'll bury somebody who was killed at the mine? (SHOUTING, SCREAMING) A Congolese soldier whips an artisanal miner who was caught trespassing at an industrial mine. (SCREAMING CONTINUES) The Chinese mine managers are watching,laughing. Violence. And no development here.
The town of Kolwezi in the far south sits on the richest seam of cobalt in the Congo.。 Mining trucks rumble through the town day and night. Hundreds of thousands of people live on the edges of these industrial mines. Are we under arrest? We've only been in town a few hours when a security team surrounds us.
They're from the Chinese-owned Commus mine. They say the public road where we're filming is their property, and we're trespassing. Among them are members of the Congolese police force. One of the policemen suspects I'm wearing a hidden camera under my shirt.
The Chinese mine security boss came over and said we have to follow them to their security office on the edge of the mine. What do we do? OK, so we have to be careful. Intimidation tactics are not unusual here.
Human rights activists who speak out against the mines have had death threats. A local producer working for an American TV crew was kidnapped. This does feel like we're completely under their control right now. Yeah.
I try to talk with the manager, but don't get very far. A supervisor makes a phone call, and I'm told the chief of police is on his way. The Chinese mining companies are paying the Congolese police to do their dirty work for them. We're held for two hours before the police chief arrives.
We're ordered to follow the police chief to the station. We're probably going to be hit up for a bribe.。 That would be a best-case scenario. Worst-case scenario, we end up detained or imprisoned or kicked out of the country. They haven't found my hidden camera and I film as the police chief takes my passport.
Votre nationalite? Australien. The police chief writes a statement saying we're trespassing, and demands a bribe. After paying it, we're let go.
OK. Whew! We're finally out of the police station, but do I feel safe? No. I'm not going to feel safe until we're out of this country, I think. For the Congolese people, mining has delivered very little. Eight years into the cobalt boom, much of Kolwezi has no running water.
Infant mortality rates are still high and there are no functioning public schools. WOMAN: Amidst the poverty and corruption, there's a glimmer of hope. Sister Jane Wainoi and Sister Justicia Nekesa PiliJane belong to the Good Shepherd order of nuns. They've rescued more than 4,000 children from the mines and enrolled them in a school they built themselves. If the children are given education, if schools are spread all over and every child goes to school, then we are redeeming this country. I think this is the home we are going.
Today, the nuns have come to see if they can help Mama Natalie and her boys, John and King. We met them earlier scavenging for cobalt on the embankments of an industrial mine. Mama Natalie and her husband can't afford to send their sons to school. The cobalt the boys help find feeds the family. Mama Natalie also has two young daughters at home. In some of the families, we encounter resistance, because we are reducing the workers, reducing the income for the family.
The children, whatever is within their environment, they think that is the life. But they are children, not miners. That's why we try to put them in their rightful place, and that is to be in school. (ROOSTER CROWS) It's a new day for Mama Natalie's sons and hopefully a new future for the family.
It's bittersweet for Mama Natalie. Today, she'll work alone on the embankment to get enough money for dinner while King and John will now be fed at school. What is the best part of your job? The best part is seeing that a child says, "I now know my rights. "I want to study and become a lawyer, become a teacher, "become a doctor." In that I feel my heart is satisfied. That my purpose for life is being fulfilled.
And that is joy. What else do I live for? The children who attend this school are the lucky ones. Look at all the hundreds and thousands of children that go to the mines. Every foreigner stealing their lives. If nothing is done today, what will become of them? As major carmakers commit to battling climate change by transitioning to electric vehicles, demand for cobalt is set to explode.
The question is will this multiply the misery for the people in the Congo or will those at the top share the bounty? (CHILDREN SINGING) Captions by Red Bee Media Copyright Australian Broadcasting Corporation