There is much more to the electric vehicle story than the “EVs good, gasoline- and diesel-powered automobiles bad” narrative we’ve been fed. Truth in advertising would require electric cars to be shown surrounded by the Pig Pen-esque dirty cloud that they kick up.
The birthplace of most electric cars is the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country where the diamond trade has helped finance civil war. There, reports the Deseret News, “slave labor” is feeding “big tech’s quest for cobalt,” an element used in the batteries that drive EVs.
“Our children are dying like dogs,” a Congolese mother whose son and cousin died while working in the Congo’s cobalt mines, says the Deseret News. She and others have filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court that “insists companies are simply turning a blind eye to the egregious abuses that include children killed in tunnel collapses or losing limbs or suffering from other horrific injuries caused by mining accidents.”
The United Nations says that “nearly 50% of world cobalt reserves” are found in the Congo. The Deseret News says the figure is more than 60%. But it’s not the only element needed to build “green” batteries. They require lithium, natural graphite, and manganese, raw materials that are “highly concentrated,” according to the U.N., “in a few countries.”
“Nearly 50% of world cobalt reserves are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 58% of lithium reserves are in Chile, 80% of natural graphite reserves are in China, Brazil and Turkey, while 75% of manganese reserves are in Australia, Brazil, South Africa and Ukraine,” says the U.N.
Look at the list again. What do some of those nations have in common? They are, the U.N. admits, “susceptible to disruption by political instability.” They also create by their Third World nature “social and environmental impacts” directly linked to “the extraction of raw materials for car batteries.”
About 20% of cobalt supplied from the DRC comes from artisanal mines where child labour and human rights abuses have been reported. Up to 40,000 children work in extremely dangerous conditions in the mines for meagre income, according to UNICEF.
And in Chile, lithium mining uses nearly 65% of the water in the country’s Salar de Atacama region, one of the driest desert areas in the world, to pump out brines from drilled wells.
This has caused groundwater depletion and pollution, forcing local quinoa farmers and llama herders to migrate and abandon ancestral settlements. It has also contributed to environment degradation, landscape damage and soil contamination.
To be fair, we acknowledge that lithium-ion batteries power our modern hand-held devices, as well. But if their use were limited to just those items, if there weren’t such a fevered campaign to replace conventional vehicles with electric cars, and to build batteries to store wind and solar power (whose components also need the same raw materials) to make them more reliable, the social and environmental problems from overseas mining overseas would not be as profound.
The hypocrisy of the green movement emits a bad odor. The political left hates mining, but apparently only in the U.S., and maybe Canada. Seems that dirty mining is OK as long it’s out of sight. It’s the same with kids. “It’s for the children,” Democrats and progressives claim when their big-spending plans are challenged. Yet none on the left are calling for a halt to the green agenda until child slave labor has been eradicated from the supply chain.
Maybe rather than hypocrisy, the green crusaders are simply ignorant. But ignorance doesn’t absolve them of their offenses.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board