Blood Cobalt: The Congo's Dangerous and Deadly Green Energy Mines | Foreign Correspondent

Blood Cobalt: The Congo's Dangerous and Deadly Green Energy Mines | Foreign Correspondent

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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 people are dying for lack of safety corruption and violence are rampant [Applause] small-scale or artisanal miners who work on the fringes of the big mines risk arrest even death many are children 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 [Music] [Applause] [Music] seventy percent 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 two dollars 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 workers who extract the metal by hand in illegal or semi-regulated sites these miners produce up to 30 percent 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 [Applause] almost as soon as they begin it's time to leave the mine's security teams are on their way okay when the patrollers break for lunch natalie and her boys will dig for another hour if they find enough cobalt they'll eat tonight do i use that [Music] 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 jumbo we're looking for mama nicole do you know mom and nicole yes can you show us would you mind showing us could you show us this is karine can you tell me his name he's a really handsome young guy what what was he like just dyomba was mama nicole's firstborn foreign i'm so sorry [Music] 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 they did not nothing yes under congolese law the company has an obligation to ensure the mind 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 meters away and there are no fences protecting this community full of children from what is obviously a very dangerous mining area the body of diomba 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 [Music] the cdm mine is a subsidiary of the chinese multinational jejang hawaii cobalt one of the world's biggest cobalt producers [Music] for years hawaii supplied cobalt to battery makers who in turn supplied companies like apple microsoft and volkswagen in 2016 amnesty international concluded 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 all right the chinese industrial miners are notoriously secretive getting answers from them is difficult got to 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 do you think they're going to check me at the gate okay let's go okay outside cdm's main cobalt depot i approached 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 the cdm buy artisanal mines cobalt [Music] 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 why you for a response but we haven't heard back [Music] has also pledged to improve the lives of the people who live around its minds but in mom and nicole's village there's little evidence of that she and her family can barely afford the cross for her son's grave mama on 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 [Music] [Music] yo mama it's congolese 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 [Music] a crew of even younger boys five and six-year-olds collect the sacks and return them to the pit oh my gosh that has got to be i reckon that's got to be 30 to 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 mind manager why the boys aren't at school the police arrive the police chief pulls our local producer aside for a quick chat so we have to pay him 20. 20 bucks later later later now okay but he's a cop right he's a policeman yeah of course he's a commissioner he's the police commissioner 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 [Music] a team of miners agree to take our cameras down first they descend a six 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 mean if 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 meters underground the men dig again unearthing more cobalt [Music] after 20 minutes they head up there's not enough oxygen for them to stay longer so this is this is cobalt this is what people in this region are digging and dying for i 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 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 uh where are you from shanghai beijing 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 knee half 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 would they say michael the hidden camera michael okay the crew calls my phone to warn me let's let's get out of here let's go let's 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 tons 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-story 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 because you work from what i understand inside a big mine is that right i think i'll keep quiet on the name of the the company where i'm working but i really work in a big mind owned by chinese what are the working conditions like people even are dying for lack of safety if it's a record eyes they'll go and bury the person hiding the corpse they'll bury somebody who was killed at the moment they don't show to the government i have to show you the treatment which we are facing you see [Applause] [Music] [Applause] a congolese soldier whips an artisanal miner who was caught trespassing at an industrial mine the chinese mind managers are watching laughing and you see the level for rifles and the corruption it means that things are not really working properly as congolese we are not benefiting from what chinese are mining it's like now all the jobless people from china start working here while our local people are suffering this is our land all the mineral resources going out and no development no development here in fact we are being underdeveloped by what they are taking the town of kolwezy 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 khomus 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 uh their security office on the edge of the mind okay so we have to be careful intimidation tactics are not unusual here human rights activists who speak out against the minds have had death threats a local producer working for an american tv crew was kidnapped this does feel like we are completely under their control right now i try to talk with a 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 um 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 the police chief writes a statement saying we're trespassing and demands a bribe after paying it we'll let go 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 [Music] for the congolese people mining has delivered very little eight years into the cobalt boom much of kolwezy has no running water [Music] infant mortality rates are still high and there are no functioning public schools [Music] i'm looking at the whole situation the reality of what we are living in now with the mining of cobalt and the sufferings of the people if we don't do anything today what will become of tomorrow amidst the poverty and corruption there's a glimmer of hope sister jane wynoy and sister justicia nikiza pilly 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 hey uh 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 [Music] in some of the families we encounter resistance because we are reducing the workers reducing their income for the family the children whatever is within their environment they think that is the but they are children not minors that's why we try to put them in their rightful place and that is to be in school [Music] it's a new day for mama natalie's sons and hopefully a new future for the family is 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 [Music] foreign is what's 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 car makers 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 [Music] [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] is [Applause] um you

2022-02-25 19:01

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