How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives
by Siddharth Kara
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Pub Date 31 Jan 2023 | Archive Date 14 Feb 2023
The revelatory New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller
An unflinching investigation reveals the human rights abuses behind the Congo’s cobalt mining operation—and the moral implications that affect us all.
Cobalt Red is the searing, first-ever exposé 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 book, Kara argues that we must all care about what is happening in the Congo—because we are all implicated.
“With extraordinary tenacity and compassion, Siddharth Kara evokes one of the most dramatic divides between wealth and poverty in the world today. His reporting on how the dangerous, ill-paid labor of Congo children provides a mineral essential to our cellphones will break your heart. I hope policy-makers on every continent will read this book.” — Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost
"Cobalt Red is a riveting, eye-opening, terribly important book that sheds light on a vast ongoing catastrophe. Everyone who uses a smartphone, an electric vehicle, or anything else powered by rechargeable batteries needs to read what Siddharth Kara has uncovered." — Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air
"Meticulously researched and brilliantly written by Siddharth Kara, Cobalt Red documents the frenzied scramble for cobalt and the exploitation of the poorest people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
— Baroness Arminka Helic, House of Lords, UK
"Siddharth Kara's powerfully told and meticulously researched book exposes the dirty secret that much of our 'clean' energy is powered by the violent exploitation, and blood, of children in the Congo. He makes a compelling case for the urgent need to address this modern form of slavery. " — Nick Grono, CEO, Freedom Fund
"As the world continues to embrace the net zero agenda and becomes ever more dependent on personal electronic devices and new technologies, this compelling book paints a dire portrait of the conditions under which a crucial natural resource is extracted. Drawing on multiple field missions and first-hand accounts of the process of cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Siddharth Kara shows in vivid detail not only life on the ground and the true human cost of extraction, but also the gross inequalities built into global value chains and business models that underpin this industry. This account reinforces our understanding of the interdependent and mutually reinforcing nature of all human rights and the many negative externalities of our modern global economy." — Todd Landman, Professor of Political Science, Pro Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Social Sciences, and Executive Director of the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 33 members
this was a beautifully done nonfiction book, I felt so bad for what happened to these people. The book was really well written and I could tell that the author knew what they were talking about. I'm glad I was able to learn about this event. Siddharth Kara had a great writing style and I was never bored when reading this, and learned more about this.
"The thirst for money transforms men into assassins . . . All means are good to obtain money or humiliate the human being. —ARCHBISHOP EUGÈNE KABANGA SONGASONGA, LUBUMBASHI, 1976"
In Western society, we're so accustomed to having high tech devices like smartphones and laptops connecting us to the world that we don't even consider that these devices also connect us to environmental degradation, political corruption, child workers, and other horrific labor practices. But with Cobalt Red, author Siddarth Kara pulls back the curtain to reveal how mining cobalt -- a toxic mineral that allows lithium batteries to hold more charge for longer periods safely -- dominates the economy of the Democratic Republic of Congo but leaves the "artisanal" miners of the Katanga region with little to no income, no protection from the toxic minerals they handle, and no medical assistance when they inevitably fall ill or are injured at work.
The book brilliantly reveals the "new heart of darkness" found in cities like Kolwezi and assorted villages throughout the southeast portion of the country and how yet another generation of Congolese are offered no alternative to the brutal work of mining the valuable resources the rest of the world wants. Kara explores the history of the country, from the age of "discovery" by Europeans to the rapacious reign of Leopold II of Belgium and through the various Congolese rulers who continued the practice of seizing power and money for themselves, and he finds that the legacy of generations of Congolese has been "so much suffering for so much profit" taken by outsiders. While today's miners might not be beaten or have hands and feet cut off by colonial overseers, they face exposure to radiation (uranium is often found along with cobalt) and toxicity from handling ores with bare skin, being crushed or buried alive in tunnel collapses, becoming disabled by falls, sexual harassment and assault, exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, and even execution for attempting to handle selling the ore themselves for a very slightly higher cost (maybe $2 a day instead of $1).
This is a grim and not terribly hopeful story about how our ambitions for new and better (and sometimes "greener" -- think electric vehicles) technology play a role in the continued subjugation of people in a distant land. But it's an absolutely vital one for those of us in the developed world to read, because it's our consumerism that drives atrocities like these.
Thank you, St. Martin's Press and NetGalley, for providing an eARC of this book. Opinions expressed here are solely my own.
Cobalt Red is an interesting but challenging read.
Content is profoundly bleak. Siddharth Kara takes us through an industry responsible for horrifying human rights abuses, including severe long-term health repercussions, child labor, and deaths for which no one is held responsible.
We also see the absolute destruction of once-thriving environments.
All that was, of course, depressing and difficult to read, but it’s also important to know.
I struggled with the density of information. We’re given an immense amount of detail on what cobalt is, how it’s manufactured for use, and what it’s used for. We learn about the mining process from start to finish in several mines, and we learn about the companies’ roles in the processing. I understand why a lot of this was necessary, but it was a bit much for me personally. I found myself tuning out, my mind drifting away as I read.
I expected more of a human interest story. While we do have that type of content, it’s dispersed throughout and within a whole lot of industry, economic, and political information.
I’m glad I read this book, though it left me feeling sad and helpless because none of this can be fixed unless the Congo’s corrupt government steps in to help its people, and the companies profiting opt to actually care about the people and the land.
Shocking. In the West, we're somewhat aware of the horrible conditions African diamond miners face. We've at least heard of this, including the trivia fact of the deepest mine in the world being a diamond mine somewhere on the continent there. And despite diamonds' wide spread use (well beyond the bling so many associate with them, by some stats that is actually one of the more *rare* uses for them, apparently). many don't really think of this too much.
But our cellphones? Our tablets? Our state of the art electric vehicles? Our "commitment to zero carbon by [insert year]" climate activism? Our ESG corporate policies?
All of these are impacted by the travails Kara uncovers in this biting expose of the Congolese Cobalt mining operations and specifically just how horrid and unsafe the conditions therein are, including the rampant and untracked use of child labor. Here, Kara takes us on an undercover journey from one of the of the region to the other, while protecting his sources as much as possible. It is an alarming look, one that the heads and other decision makers in many of the world's largest corporations and manufacturers need to read and examine the issues it raises in further detail based on this reporting. Even if Elon Musk (Tesla), Akio Toyoda (Toyota), Mary Barra (GM), and Oliver Blume (Volkswagen) won't look into this, perhaps global banking, as part of its own ESG and Zero Carbon initiatives, could look into it from their end and begin to influence the car manufacturers from that side.
In a book full of unimaginable pain and sorrow, a few tales stick out. One of them in particular is that of a man who was injured in the mine, and thus his teenage son was forced to work in the mine for the family's subsistence. Just a week before this father could go back to work, word came from the mine of a collapse. His son died in that collapse and the body remains buried within the mine. Prepare yourself, reader. As illuminating as this text is, stories at least that bad pepper this text like sand on a beach.
The only reason for the single star deduction? Possibly due to the text being primarily Kara's own investigations, the bibliography here is quite scant indeed, clocking in at barely 8% of the overall text when 20-30% is much more common in my experience with other nonfiction advance reader copies.
Overall this is absolutely a book that needs to be read as widely as possible, and one that needs as much attention brought to its issues as possible. Very much recommended.
“I thought that the ground in the Congo took its vermillion hue from the copper in the dirt, but now I cannot help but wonder whether the earth here is red because of all the blood that has spilled upon it.”
This is a phenomenal non-fiction read exposing the ramifications of our device-driven society.
Activist and researcher Siddharth Kara informs us of the horrifying conditions cobalt miners in the Congo experience in an effort to keep up with the increasing world demand for cobalt. He claims that “the blood of the Congo powers our lives” and provides the unvarnished truth, alarming proof that many powerful companies are desperate to hide.
Cobalt is an essential ingredient of the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power our smartphones, laptops and electric cars. It’s a rare, silvery metal that is also used in many of our low-carbon innovations crucial to achieving our climate sustainability goals. It’s mined in the Katanga region, a part of the Congo that has more reserves than the rest of the world combined.
There is a vast disparity between the companies that sell products containing cobalt and the people who dig it out of the ground. I was horrified to read about the children and women who hand mine this metal for a mere dollar a day. They fear tunnel collapsing, working in radioactive water, and speaking out against their meagre wages.
We can’t just remove cobalt from our rechargeable batteries. It contributes to the batteries holding more charge and operating safely for longer time periods. If we remove it, we have to plug in our devices more often and risk batteries catching fire.
To put it in perspective, the battery packs in our electric cars take up to ten kilograms of cobalt - that’s more than one thousand times the amount needed in our smartphone batteries. Did you gasp?
Need another clear picture? Did you know that during the pandemic there was increased pressure put on Congolese cobalt extraction? Billions of us relied, more than ever, on our rechargeable batteries to continue remote working and schooling. It put pressure on the artisanal miners and many more children had to join the mining workforce to keep up with the demand and help their families survive. COVID protocols? What protocols? Non-existent. If they didn’t contract the virus and share it with their family causing death, they still stopped their education to provide for US.
While I was expecting more of a human interest story and I felt bogged down with the amount of information presented, I did realize the importance of this book. We ALL need to care about what’s happening here because we are all implicated. We are ALL powering the digital revolution. ALL OF US.
I’m struggling with the author’s final thoughts: “Lasting change is best achieved when the voices of those who are exploited are able to speak for themselves and are heard when they do so.” I do agree with his plea for accountability, rather than “zero-tolerance policies and hollow PR” focusing on human rights violations. One of his solutions may seem unattainable - “treat the artisanal miners as equal employees to the people who work at corporate headquarters.”
I may not have come away with a plan or many thoughts on how to help this crisis, but I was emotionally affected and was educated and this is what will fuel my future actions.
I’m grateful for the invitation to read this powerful book. I was gifted it by St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
Rechargeable batteries like ones in smart phones, tablets, and electric vehicles are made with cobalt. Cobalt is extensively mined in Democratic Republic of the Congo. The conditions that the miners work under is some of the most barbaric on the planet. The book traces the current state of the cobalt trade directly back to the brutal colonial history of Africa. The tech companies turn a blind eye to the way they procure the cheap cobalt. They get disgustingly rich off the starving, broken, abused Congolese people.
I didn’t know anything about cobalt or Democratic Republic of the Congo before I was approached by the publisher and asked to review this book. The hard truth is that the devices that I used to read about the conditions are quite likely powered by cobalt scratched from the earth by someone in slavery. From the hand of a slave to my hand.
Thanks to @netgalley and @stmartinspress for an advanced copy of this book. It will be released on 1/31/23. Please read it. We have to start somewhere.
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 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.
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
I 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 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 morally 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.
What a book. It is very readable for being nonfiction. Sometimes, data and facts can get in the way of the narrative and bog it down, but not in this book. Such a horrible exploitation of the Congolese people! I had no idea (which is likely true of most of us) what other humans are going through so I can have an iPhone or so people can buy Teslas. And all for the almighty dollar, which reigns supreme.
How cobalt (and other minerals) affects our every day lives and how we use it is explained very well and in layman's terms. The transfer of power and money and the lack of any kind of oversight is written in a very readable way. If you want your eyes opened, read this one.
I was asked to read a pre-publication copy of this book for my honest review. And wow. An incredible book that we gluttonous Americans need to read.
This earthshaking account of cobalt mining in the Congo will change your perspective on unethical labor practices perpetuated by our growing dependence on rechargeable devices. Modern slavery scholar Siddharth Kara shares what he learned from his journey through the cobalt mines, where he witnessed child labor, immensely dangerous conditions, hidden death tolls, and the unconscionable greed that sweeps all this under the rug. Many Congolese people spoke to Kara at great personal risk, and I truly hope their bravery leads to massive change. I know I won't forget their stories.
Before reading this book, I had no idea what cobalt was used for or how it was mined. I wish I knew a way to help. But I can certainly encourage everyone to read this book. I will never again be able to use my ipad or smartphone without thinking of this book.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
This is a n old and too often reran story about white people finding something beneficial in a poor country and then gouging that country for everything it’s worth while the natives get paid a dollar a day if they’re lucky. In this case we’re talking about the Congo and cobalt 3/4 of the worlds call boat comes from the Congo an actor basically stealing the land from the Congolese the Europeans have set up 17 different complexes in and around Congo to write their land a penny fossil fuels they deem worthy. This was a short read because how many times can you say Whiteman came in Eustis for slave labor without the story getting old. Despite the book not being long it is packed full of details say it stories on murder in it with the tragic death Rafael. I didn’t know anything about kobo or what it did for people and how it’s so beneficial but after reading test I do now and you should read it to there’s a book I highly recommend for those who like adult nonfiction and learning something you didn’t already know it’s so interesting and sad and tragic end on some level it’s the same old same old. regardless of how many times it plays out that white people come in and take from the last fortunate everyone deserves the story to be told and now the Congo in cobo has theirs and this one I highly recommend. I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher but I am leaving this review voluntarily please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.
A frightening look at the appalling and abusive conditions for workers in the cobalt mines of the Congo which accounts for over 70 percent of the world's supply. This is educational not only about the exploitation of the workers but also about the tangled history of the Congo. It's easy to throw stones at the major corporations who need the cobalt for the batteries that power our consumer goods but the challenge is what to do about it. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. This can be hard to read in spots but it's an important and detailed books of investigative reporting.
Cobalt Red is a timely book that investigates the mining of cobalt in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo. The mined product is useful for global production of lithium batteries for digital devices.
The price of lithium batteries has superseded the cost of human labor to mine cobalt. This is one of the factors that is crucial to the investigative conditions of geospatial mining that affects the chilling effects of its global distribution.
Kara investigates its Pyrrhic victory as it exploits the ignoble labor of the miners. Kara’s ability to interview those who work the mines is to his credit but it caused emotional and perhaps physical harm to those who were willing to discuss these conditions and to Kara as well.
Kara misses an opportunity to compare the similarities of deplorable conditions of mining in general to that of cobalt mining. This missed opportunity could have strengthened his painful and repetitive descriptions of the exploitative labor practices as he travels from one mine to another. The reader may become numb to the life-threatening conditions or be called to action to aid the miners. Kara does mention mines that are trying to make a difference to move from indifference to the physical demands and life-threatening conditions, including the deaths of workers, both young and old, to more humane practices of cobalt mining. The changes mentioned in the book by those who oversee cobalt mining are minimal and will not alleviate the view of one worker that they “work in their graves.”
It would be useful to present the first few chapters in a different order to demonstrate the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and cobalt mining as both fall into a rapid abyss of devolution and disenfranchisement.
A useful tool for a comprehensive read would be a legend on each page of the acronyms used for the uninformed reader. An explicit theoretical analysis would have been a useful support for the narrative as this would aid in the keen camera-like observations by Kara of cobalt mining and the descriptions of clothing worn by those interviewed.
Kara’s ability to “exhume” the conditions of the cobalt miners on an international geopolitical platform will elicit interest and proffered change.
Submitted by Ardel
"We Work in Our Graves"
Cobalt miners in Congo
1. Everyone [and I mean E V E R Y O N E] should be reading this book. With a highlighter and a notebook. And when they are done, they need to push it on every single person they know.
2. Once you have read this book, you will NEVER EVER look at your cell phone, tablet, ANYTHING that is rechargeable ever again. I am going to strive to keep my rechargeables as long as I possibly can. Because of our now dependence on electronics, there is little else we can do [this, and limit the amount of rechargeables one has in the home. I will be using mine until I cannot turn them on anymore and will only be purchasing new when that happens].
3. The idea that my phone has caused the death of a child in Congo is not only abhorrent, but devastating to me. Child labor is abhorrent in general, but the fact that much of the mining for cobalt is done by CHILDREN [as young as SIX YEARS OLD] and the companies that buy said cobalt have it in writing that there are no children at "THEIR" mines [because they clearly have never, ever set foot in Congo and in reality, don't want to know, as long as the money keeps coming in for them. Their lives and minds would change if they actually had to go there and SEE the littles mining this dangerous cobalt], and they don't engage in dangerous practices [again, SO not the truth]. We, as consumers of rechargeables, need to do better and hold these companies to account.
4. The last 3-4 chapters of this book will wreck you. If it does not, I would question whether you a) have a heart, and b) whether or not you might be a sociopath/psychopath. Reading about mine collapses and children dying got to be almost too much at times, and yet, I could not stop listening. And crying. And crying. And crying.
5. The author is very, very, brave. The people and children of Congo are very, very, brave [they do what they have to do to have lives, even though it is full of pain and poverty and more often than not, death]. The guides that took the author around and got people to talk to him are very, very, brave.
WHY are they brave? Because the author and the guides at any time could have been captured, jailed or just plain shot. The people that chose to speak to the author could have been shot. All for telling the truth. This is storytelling at its most dangerous and yet, the author never falters [even after witnessing a mine collapse in person <--I would have not dealt with that well at all, but for him, it just reinforced the need for this book to come out and for the truth about all that is going on in Congo to be published]. I admire them simply because they did what they needed to do to get the truth to the masses, no matter what [and some of that is covered in the acknowledgements and notes at the end. I may have cried all over again reading those]. Give this man all the awards.
Go and get this book. Be prepared for what you are reading. It will absolutely forever change you, and I can tell you, that is 100% not a bad thing.
I was extremely blessed to get an audiobook ARC for this read and I am so glad I did. The narration for this book was fantastic. I will be adding this narrator to my "must listen" list. He tells the story of Congo and cobalt and all that has happened to the author in a straightforward, easy to listen to way and I am so grateful to have received this audiobook; it made an already very difficult read a teeny bit easier.
I was asked to read/review this book by St. Martin's Press and I thank them, NetGalley, Siddharth Kara, Peter Ganim - Narrator and Macmillian Audio for providing both the ARC and the audiobook ARC in exchange for an honest review. I also must thank all in Congo that were involved in the making of this book; may it bring your truth to the world and may we all be strong enough to make the change that needs to be made - your stories have forever changed me and I will never, ever, forget you.
A child in the Congo dies every day so we can have batteries for our phones.
That's the story in this horrifying exposé of labor practices reminiscent of the atrocities in the Congo under Leopold II. Workers, including children, mine cobalt in impoverished and often brutal conditions—risking debilitating injuries and death.
The author interviewed workers and families in the affected regions and tells their stories in their words. The Congo is rich in resources—but Chinese manufacturers producing goods for American companies are forcing Africans to work in subhuman conditions. The book is written in a straightforward style that makes it no less chilling.
Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received. This is my honest and voluntary review.
***ARC received from St. Martins Press and NetGalley in exchange for honest review, opinions are all my own. Thank you!***
Cobalt Red is not an easy read but the history and current situation in the Congo is not a light subject and the author does a good job of weaving the two together. The Congo is rich in natural resources which has long made it a target for international powers that want to control and enrich themselves from those resources. While the book dives into the history of the country, from the ruthless control enforced by King Leopold and the Belgium government after him to the current exploitation of international companies it is still a story about the people that suffer and the systems in place to keep them suffering.
In between history the author does interviews with the local artisanal miners who make up the vast work force in the mines. Many of them are entire families, all having to work to have enough just to put a meal on the table. One of the biggest themes over and over again through the interviews is many just have no choice. There is one interview done with a young man named Makano, who after the death of his father had one option to keep his family fed, go into the mines. It is there at only sixteen he falls and gravely injures himself. It is a common story, teen boys pulled from school to work in the mines for a variety of reasons.
Time and time again Cobalt Red points out that much of this is by design, the mines are the most important part far more than the people. But they need the people, most importantly the children to go work in the mines. Things could change, the mining companies can do better to provide for the people. The author visits two mines that feel like they are trying to do better but even then its still the bare minimum.
At times this book was difficult to read, not just the subject matter but the heavy use of acronyms and the inconsistent feeling to the timeline. Both makes sense as the author goes to great lengths to make sure he protects those that were brave enough to give him interviews. There is a section that outlines the history of the Congo that would have felt better suited at the beginning of the book so it can be referenced again as the author continues but that is just my preference.
Cobalt Red left me with the question of what is to be done? It was never lost on me that I read this book on my Ipod with its rechargeable battery, that I looked up people and history while reading on my Iphone and that I type this review on my computer with a rechargeable battery. Consumers have a great deal of power, if we were more aware of the human rights abuse and environmental destruction our rechargeable batteries consume to be made would the demand outcry to switch to batteries that don’t rely on cobalt be stronger? There is already work being done on batteries and it will not be easy to make these changes, companies with deep pockets will fight to keep the status quo but I can be hopeful. Because unless things do change, the cobalt mines will remain of the graves of the Congolese people.
Rarely has a book had such a profound effect on my views of the world, but Siddharth Kara’s writing grabbed hold of my heart and twisted it throughout this eye-opening read. At first I was staggered by the heaviness of the data presented, but then I was drawn into the horrors of these artisanal miners lives and my heart broke for them.
The Congo’s wealth of natural riches has long been raped by other countries seeking fortunes. The latest craze is cobalt which is needed increasingly more every year for smartphones, tablets, watches, golf cart batteries and lately for electric car batteries. As I sat there reading this arc on my kindle, I read this quote, “Please tell the people in your country, a child in the Congo dies every day so that they can plug in their phones.” The guilt I feel is undeniable…living the easy life while those who make these items possible for us purely for our own enjoyment are down crawling in hand dug tunnels mining the cobalt by hand, fearing for their very lives.
The horrors of the mining itself, the contamination of the water, food sources, and air they breathe, the lack of food and clean water, medical facilities, and education are astounding to absorb. Families cannot afford to pay for school thus their young children are thrust into the mining process, sieving the ore and breaking it into small pieces to give to others who pay them pitifully small amounts, while older children and adults risk their lives tunneling deep under the ground with sometimes only a piece of rebar as a tool. Most adults mining earn less than $1.00 per day while the greedy companies, mostly from China pocket the rest. So many children and adults killed and maimed so we can use our devices.
Siddharth Kara is turning a brilliant spotlight on these inhumane practices. My hope is that people will read the truth of his many trips and interviews and feel compassion for the miners and their families, while the companies that produce the products that benefit us all turn up the heat on the way the mines are really being run, as exposed by Kara. Although the officials in the Congo believe that they need to help themselves, someone needs to start the ball rolling. Another quote spoke to me. “The mineral reserves in Congo will last another forty years, maybe fifty? During that time, the population of Congo will double. If our resources are sold to foreigners for the benefit of the political elite, instead of investing in education and development for our people, in two generations, we will have two hundred million people who are poor, uneducated, and have nothing left of value.”
Many many thanks to Siddharth Kara for opening my eyes to this devastating issue, St. Martin’s Press for having the wisdom to publish it, and NetGalley for affording me the opportunity to read an arc of this soon to be published action provoking book. Now that we know of this issue what is it that each of us can do to change what is happening in the Congo so we can use our pleasure seeking devices? Hopefully we can Prove Lubyanka wrong when she said, “Every day people are dying because of the cobalt. Describing this will not change anything.”
Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC!
This book started slow for me because I wasn't in the mood, but after a few days I dove back in; and I am glad I did! I don't want to spoil the book, however I highly suggest that you give this book a read---it is worth it!!!!
After reading this you will never replace a battery without thinking of this book
I think as an American it's hard for us to believe or even understand the kind of life people, even children, have to do in order to eat or feed their family.
I wish books like this were read, studied, and discussed in our schools.
If you want a first hand account of how capitalism and colonialism effects third world countries and people of color, this is the book for you. As an American I have never thought about where the metals and supplies in my smart devices are gathered. Now I know and I am pissed. The Congo has always been a prime victim to the whims of the greedy. It started with the ivory and rubber and now it is with copper and cobalt. The major companies (ex. Apple, Samsung etc.) all claim to check for and prevent slavery and child labor but they are at best dumb and at worst evil. They are great at the copy-paste HR posts that provide no accountability and no plans going forward. Cobalt Red describes how they are ignoring the red flags and how the mines are actually ran. It was a fascinating and frustrating account of the day to day lives of Artisanal Miners of the Congo. The book itself is well written and surprisingly easy to understand. Going in I knew nothing about mining, cobalt, current events in the Congo and the extreme neglect and indifference of their government. Now I feel like I have a basic understanding and can rant angrily with some semblance of coherence. Cobalt Red also opened my eyes to the basis of "Heart of Darkness" and I think I'll appreciate it more now that I know the history of slavery. I firmly believe that anyone with a smart device needs to read this and appreciate what atrocities are occurring to make them.
Shockingly real, this book exposes the cost of mining the minerals needed for production of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that power millions of our oh-so-necessary devices. The shameful practices of these Chinese companies and their greed for financial gain is horrendous in their brutal treatment of native Congolese people. These people are living and dying for cobalt, risking their own lives and the lives of their children. Recommended reading, and vitally important.
One of the few places on Earth that you can find cobalt, is in the Congo. The people that mine cobalt are mistreated and die because of the harsh conditions in which they mine a key element in our lives. This book investigates the conditions, the mines, and the people we rely on, but will never know anything about, This book is a stark reminder that we rely on people we don't know and unfortunately are treated so poorly that we wouldn't want our worst enemies to be treated this way.
An incisive investigative reporting of the human toll and brutality caused by our need for the latest and greatest technologies in our smart phones and cars. The author does not report from afar or from a library reading reports, this author visits the mines in the Congo at great risk and peril to him and exposes the horrific conditions and practices in "artisanal" mining and the use of children as labor. "Artisanal" for us conjures images of artisans working their craft in a beautiful bespoke way (and we tend to buy brands that promote artisanal methods. My view of this has changed forever when I learned that artisanal mining is the most dangerous, difficult form of mining using hand tools to extract cobalt and other minerals. I hope this book has the intended effect of being a call to action for the corporations who are benefiting from this and turning a blind eye to what is really happening in the pursuit of precious minerals. It should also be a wake up call for us consumers -- do I really need the latest and greatest smartphone? This is an absolute must read. I highly recommend this book.
Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
The opposite ends of supply chain. Those on the top enjoy the benefits and those on the bottom risk a lot - life, livelihood and future genrations.
The title and subtitle really sums it all up, it's a horrific story of modern abuse going on today and only worsening with the power balance of consuming countries of lithium batteries over a poor producing country supplies the resources to make these batteries.
This nonfiction book will make you stop and think about the impact our lives have on others around the world. The book explores the impact of cobalt mining on the people of Democratic Republic of the Congo. Cobalt is used in the rechargeable devices we all use.
The author, Siddharth Kara researches modern day slavery. This is his latest book exploring the subject. He goes to the Democratic Republic of the Congo over many years to interview people involved in the supply chain of cobalt. He talks to those at the bottom that are exploited for the labor to extract the ore to those at the top who get the cobalt to the global market.
Kara expertly includes the history of colonization in the area and how that history has been repeated over centuries. The personal stories the author includes humanizes this subject that many will try to explain away as a supply issue rather than a humanitarian issue.
I hybrid read this book. The audiobook is read by Peter Ganim. He takes care in pronouncing the names of places and people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher, St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley.
Wow this book really opened my eyes to an issue didn't know anything about. I have been looking at getting an electric car. This makes me rethink that decision.
The history of the issues was informative but I did get a little lost in all the names and locations of places I have never heard of before.
While I don't agree with the solution listed at the end of the book I can see where that would be a start. I think you need to hear the voice of those that are being taken advantage of but unless you make a change in government you will never see change.
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