cobalt mining impacts within the Democratic Republic of Congo
Please help me in peer editing this essay for my class any feedback is appreciated so much! Thank you!
I wrote this research essay on cobalt mining and the impacts it has within the Democratic Republic of Congo. The environmental impact it has, as well as the impact cobalt mining has on the surrounding population within the towns and the health risks the population face because of the exposure to cobalt mining. Lastly I wrote about deep sea mining for valuable metals including cobalt and the potential environmental impact it could have on the oceans and biodiversity and the human rights infringements the miners with the DRC have to endure.
Most of the electronics sold on the market in this day and age contain lithium-ion batteries. It sounds harmless enough, I am sure most people that have considered buying a new phone, or electronic haven't given their purchase a second thought. But what if you knew how that lithium-ion battery was produced, or better yet, the way in which the cobalt was obtained to produce the lithium-ion within your cell phone? According to Claire Felter, "Most of the world's cobalt supply comes from the DRC, part of Central Africa's copper belt" (Felter). In fact, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the world's top producers of cobalt, "...accounting for roughly 60 percent of global production" (Barrera). In knowing this seemingly harmless fact, it is also important to note that the mining procedures that take place within the DR Congo are very unsafe. Each day men and children put their lives at risk all for the mining of cobalt and a chance to live a better life, support their families, and pay their bills - simply because they have very few options. Not only are the mining practices unsafe, but the mining of cobalt has an environmental impact and also have an effect on the surrounding population in the areas that it takes place in. There is currently a lack of awareness in regards to the cobalt mining process and its impact towards the health concerns of the local population, the environmental impact, and human rights violations.
Firstly, there have been studies conducted to show that there may be certain health risks associated with the mining activities and the individuals that live within the area. It is surmised that the dust produced from mining cobalt posed respiratory issues for the miners and families that live within the area. Miners face high exposure to mine dust which contains trace metals, "exposure to gaseous radon, one of uranium's radioactive decay products, must also be considered, especially for the diggers, who work in poorly ventilated mineshafts, and for the occupants of homes where minerals may be stored for prolonged times" (Célestin). "Inhalation of cobalt containing dust has also lead to pathologic reactions in the lung parenchyma. The lesions, called 'hard metal disease', have ranged from intense alveolitis resembling desquamative or giant-cell interstitial pneumonitis to end-stage pulmonary fibrosis"(Lauwerys, etc).Through a case study conducted within the Katanga Copperbelt of the DRC, in the town of Kolwezii it was found that the population's health was affected due to the mining activities. Children were also at risk for certain health conditions later on in life due to the exposure to the cobalt mining. There was evidence found to show increased oxidative DNA damage which was found in children who were highly exposed [to the mining activities] and it "...suggests a higher occurrence of genetic and epigenetic changes and, hence, points to an increased risk of cancer in later life" (Célestin). The towns surrounding areas in which cobalt mining takes place are certainly being affected negatively by the mining activities. Only time will tell whether the health impacts will be short term but unfortunately for the younger generations, especially those within the mines, the health conditions developed could potentially have detrimental health impacts to their lives'.
Moreover, there has been an impact on the environment due to cobalt mining procedures, it has been shown time and time again that mining in general has led to pollution within the environment or region in which it takes place, and cobalt mining proves no different. Within the DRC much of the cobalt mining practices have little regard for the health of the environment, the biggest impact has been on the water supply within the DRC. The region's rivers are severely polluted by cobalt mining throughout the area in which the mining takes place, many environmentalists, doctors and activists say. (Frankel). Specifically, in the Katanga province industrial mining companies that operate (since the province is bountiful in copper and cobalt) pollute water sources, in turn, impacting the local populations and their access to drinking water. (Montejano). According to a United Nations Special Rapporteur, "The deficient management of the hazardous substances and waste created by extractive industries makes water the most affected resource by this sector" (Montejano). Due to poor waste management the rivers within the Katanga province in the DRC continue to be polluted because of cobalt mining. Overall, the mining of cobalt within the DRC is harmful to the environment and the people that have to live in the surrounding regions, because of poor waste management by industrial mining companies the rivers continue to be polluted impacting the environment and population.
Cobalt has begun to be highly sought after due to its use in greener energy sources, but the DRC is not the only area facing environmental damage as deep sea mining has become an interest to mining companies. There has been an increase in demand for cobalt, as well as manganese and lithium which "has led to a surge in interest in deep-sea mining, which studies predict will have serious and irreversible impacts on biodiversity" ("Amnesty Challenges Industry Leaders to Clean Up Their Batteries"). The deep sea contains many rare and valuable minerals and metals, due to new technology deep sea mining may become the next frontier for mining companies interested in lucrative metals such as cobalt, zinc, manganese and many more. Deep sea mining is an extremely new venture with not much being known about the long term impacts on the environment and ocean biodiversity. Mining companies are eager to begin mining polymetallic nodules within the deep sea, these nodules are what contain many valuable elements, minerals and metals. Some companies have already begun experimental mining ventures off the coast of Papua New Guinea as well as Japan.
Despite the concern for the ocean's biodiversity there are rich cobalt deposits found in the deep sea, environmentalists and scientists are deeply worried about deep sea mining. Scientists are considering the disruption to the fragile biodiversity that the mining activities that would occur would bring about such as noise, sediment, chemical and light pollution (FT Rethink). In contrast, some areas within the world are considering the possibility of deep sea mining because of the revenue it could bring to their countries, nevertheless many exploration licenses have already been granted (Menzies). Most environmentalists and scientists in opposition of deep sea mining, have suggested that smartphones and other electronic products should be recycled rather than being thrown away to help mitigate the issue within the DRC, where children are being used within the mines for cobalt.
Furthermore, since there have not been many studies on deep sea mining and the potential impact it could have on the oceans' diversity and environment with not much being known, scientists are conducting new studies to assess the environmental risks associated with deep sea mining. Scientists and environmentalists alike are uneasy about the outcome that deep sea mining would have on the wildlife within the ocean, particularly regarding corals. Seeing as coral reefs have already been great damaged by other environmental factors, such as the rising ocean temperatures, it is hard to conclude the impact deep sea mining would have on an already endangered specimen. It is also important to note that coral reefs are imperative to the oceans biodiversity, it is critical that they stay intact. The polymetallic nodules, found within the deep sea are the interest of commercial mining companies. Notably the nodules take millions of years to form and also are vital to the animals that live on top of them, with not many species having been identified within the deep sea, mining the nodules could result in the disruption of certain species habitats before they are even described or discovered (Letman). The nodules "provide a stable anchoring point for the development of anemones, soft corals and sponges, and promote the development of diverse communities on otherwise muddy seabed" (The Maritime Executive). Deep sea mining would also produce sediment plumes, in turn inhibiting life on the seafloor and other various depths of the ocean. Deep sea mining may also contribute even more so to global warming by affecting the ocean's ability to defend against climate change. By blanketing the seafloor with sediments from deep sea mining it would potentially disturb the fragile ecosystem of the deep sea as well as worsening climate change. With so little being known on deep sea mining and the potential long term negative impact it could have on the environment it is an enormous risk to the biodiversity within the ocean. Industrial mining companies should consider the outcomes carefully and obtain more research before committing to deep sea mining ventures.
Additionally, there was a new study conducted by marine biologists on how corals handle damage that deep sea mining could cause being that very little is known about how deep sea mining could impact marine wildlife conclusions have yet to be drawn on the particular study (Euronews Knowledge). In a recent study conducted by U.K.'s National Oceanography Centre, scientists revisited an old deep-sea mining site and it was concluded that tracks on the seafloor caused by deep sea mining were still present years later, not to mention impacts on the marine wildlife that were previously observed in 1989 are still present to this day (The Maritime Executive).Moreover, the study which was recently published also highlighted that, " While mobile species, such as sea cucumbers and sea stars, were able to recolonize impacted areas, many animals, such as sponges and sea anemones, live attached to the seafloor and remained virtually absent from directly disturbed seabed" (The Maritime Executive). Given that these species has an important role to play within the oceans ecosystem, large scale mining of the deep sea for valuable metals such as cobalt, could lead to devastating consequences for the oceans ecosystem. Overall, there needs to be more research conducted on how marine wildlife and environment would handle the potential disruption that deep sea mining could cause. The impacts that deep sea mining could have on the oceans biodiversity could be detrimental to the marine ecosystem especially seeing as the marine ecosystem is already being put at risk due to many other environmental issues that the world is facing currently.
Lastly, death and injuries are common in mining for cobalt, considering there are few safety practices in place. The mining companies do not have safe mining practices in place which puts the miners' lives at risk, death has occurred due to mines collapsing suddenly or fires within the mines. As a matter of fact, many artisanal cobalt miners, an estimated 100,000, in the DRC have to use hand tools to dig the mines, all with very few safety measures and little to no oversight, this was uncovered by The Washington Post during a visit to some remote mines (Frankel). Through speaking with the miners and government officials the environment and mining conditions were found to put the miners lives' at risk. Additionally, according to The Washington Post, "Thirteen cobalt miners were killed in September 2015 when a dirt tunnel collapsed in Mabaya, near the Zambia border. Two years ago, sixteen diggers were killed by landslides in Kawama, followed months later by the deaths of fifteen diggers in an underground fire in Kolwezi" (Frankel). Deaths are very common within the mines, with little to no attention from the media to draw light to the issues and risks the miners face. Sadly, many individuals that are cobalt miners within the Congo have few other options, thus they turn to mining as a meager way to make ends meet and provide for their families.
The artisanal miners are put in a position where they have to work long hours just to make ends meet considering they are paid very little, as well as being underpaid the workers also have a difficult time finding clean drinking water.The artisanal miners are paid very little and unregulated and because of this the artisanal mines are able to produce cheaper cobalt as opposed to industrial mines (Dummett).The Washington Post was able to interview a miner who worked in the artisanal mines according to the miner, "[their] "pay is based on what they find. No minerals, no money. And the money is meager - the equivalent of $2 to $3 on a good day, Nsenga said" (Frankel)."None of the adult or child miners we saw wore face masks that could prevent them from inhaling cobalt dust, which could lead to potentially fatal lung disease" (Dummett)."UNICEF estimates about 40,000 children work in mining across the south of the DRC where cobalt is found" (Dummett). Unfortunately, it has been extremely difficult to keep children from the mines in the DRC."A 2016 investigation found children and adults in southern DRC working in hand-dug cobalt mines facing serious health risks, neither protected by the government nor respected by companies that profit from their labour" ("Amnesty Challenges Industry Leaders to Clean Up Their Batteries").
In conclusion, the benefits of mining cobalt are pale in comparison to the hardships the miners and their families face on a daily basis. With many violations regarding basic human rights as well as environmental and health concerns for the population, cobalt mining requires a re-evaluation on the standards being set for supplying an ever growing "environmentally friendly" industry. The numerous facts and statistics set forth within this essay are in hopes of greater education within society of the impact that purchases have on other regions within the world. There are examples of known correlations between cobalt mining and the health consequences faced by the local population, environmental factors to be considered, such as water pollution that occurs. Lastly, the miner's basic human rights that are violated frequently, being paid unfairly in contrast to laborious work done and the simple fact in most areas the workers are unable to access clean drinking water. With all of these facts presented it is important to weigh the pros and cons of using lithium ion batteries. It is imperative that companies try their best to ensure that their cobalt is being sourced humanely, with the growing wealth of information changes will continue to be put in place. Awareness should be brought to this issue to change the course of cobalt mining within the DRC for the people, their health and the environment in which the industry operates. Hopefully with the information that is continually gathered will help put an end to the way in which the cobalt mining industry is currently operating within the DRC.
Review of Essay
Some categories I feel my essay was strong in include is that I clearly explained and provided the audience with valuable information regarding cobalt mining as a whole. I feel as though i used the references appropriately and demonstrated good ability at tying in the direct quotes with the main idea of the paper. I feel as though I could work on the wordiness of the essay. It can get quite repetitive. It may also be best to use other transition words as opposed to using first within the second paragraph. I feel I could also improve upon tying in deep sea mining to the main message of the essay better, potentially mentioning it within the introductory paragraph somehow. I also feel like my conclusion could be improved upon and wrap up the main body paragraphs more cohesively as well as tying in the deep sea mining in a better way.
"Amnesty Challenges Industry Leaders to Clean Up Their Batteries." Amnesty International
Barrera, Priscila. "Top Cobalt Production by Country." Investing News Network
Dummett, Mark. "The Dark Side of Electric Cars: Exploitative Labor Practices." Time
Euronews Knowledge. "Scientists Fear Deep-sea Mining."
Felter, Claire. "The Cobalt Boom." Council on Foreign Relations
Frankel, Todd C. "The Cobalt Pipeline." The Washington Post
FT Rethink. "Deep-sea Mining: Vital Resource or Environmental Disaster?" YouTube
Letman, Jon. "The Race Is On to Mine the Deep Ocean." National Geographic
The Maritime Executive. "NOC: Environmental Impact of Deep-Sea Mining can Last Decades."
Menzies, Steve. "Breaking the Surface - The Future of Deep Sea Mining in the Pacific." YouTube
Montejano, Andrés Z. "In Search of Clean Water: Human Rights and The Mining Industry in Katanga, DRC." ReliefWeb - Informing Humanitarians Worldwide