AFRICA/DR CONGO - "The spotlight on cobalt is good, but we must also look at other Congolese minerals".

Friday, 27 January 2023

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "How Is Your Phone Powered? Problematically" is the headline of the New York Times reviewing the recently published essay by Siddharth Kara “Cobalt Red, How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives”, the result of an investigation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the mining areas controlled by the militias that share natural resources.
The book traces the supply chain of cobalt mined by children from the toxic open pit mine to tech giants and consumers, collecting the testimonies of people who endure immense suffering and even die in the extraction of the essential mineral who endure immense suffering and even die in the extraction of mineral, essential for modern technological devices.
"It is important to talk about the exploitation of cobalt, but this affects Katanga above all, where there are important mining companies," says Father Loris Cattani, a Xaverian missionary with long experience in the DRC. “However, it is necessary to broaden our gaze to the two provinces of Kivu, where not so much cobalt as other minerals, such as coltan, are extracted by hand, under the control of armed militias that divide up the territory, and then they sell to international markets through Rwanda and Uganda. These countries, Rwanda in particular, do not have significant mineral resources, but export minerals such as coltan in larger quantities than the DRC. For this reason, international legislation is necessary to allow the origin of these materials to be traced”, underlines the missionary.
In this regard, Congolese NGOs and civil society groups note some critical shortcomings in the European Conflict Minerals Regulation, which entered into force on January 1, 2021.
A first deficiency refers to the
poor coverage of the Regulation of the trade of only four minerals (gold, tungsten, tin and tantalum), leaving out several other minerals that are increasingly important for the ecological transition, such as coltan, cobalt and lithium. Nor is there “any obligation in relation to sanctions (sanctions are discretionary)”. Another serious shortcoming is the lack of transparency regarding the companies covered by the Regulation and the actual ability to link upstream production with EU imports. Finally, the application of volumetric thresholds to imports, below which there is no control, runs the risk of excluding from the Regulation precisely the most dangerous imports, which are not necessarily the largest, and leaves open the possibility that the companies circumvent the Regulation by fragmenting import flows. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 27/1/2023)