Coltan is one of the world’s most vital minerals, and 60% of reserves globally are found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kivu province. In 2019, 40% of the global coltan supply was produced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.The mineral is used in cell phones, laptops and other devices because of its particular ability to store and release electrical energy. As 5G technology grows demand for Congolese coltan will increase. But this is not good news for everyone in the DRC. Much of the country’s coltan is extracted using the labour of over 40 000 child and teenage miners. Coming from remote villages and towns in Kivu, they either drop out of school or have never had the opportunity to attend. The informality of the extractive sector provides attractive job opportunities for vulnerable children, who serve as a pool of cheap labour. Children work as washers and diggers in dangerous conditions.
They also engage in petty smuggling, selling coltan for a pittance in towns along the borders with Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. Doing adults’ work in a hazardous environment, many child miners face sexual harassment, rape, abuse and ill health.Occupational hazards include daily exposure to Radon, a radioactive substance associated with coltan, which has been linked to lung cancer. As the system stands now, nearly everybody but the workers involved profit from the buying and selling of coltan. Distributors and mine owners get their profits from the raw material. Companies like Tesla Inc, Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc, Microsoft Corp and Dell Technologies Inc gets the capacitors it needs to work its electronics, consumers get the final product. These companies the richest companies in the world, these fancy gadget-making companies have allowed children to be maimed and killed to get their cheap cobalt.
Cobalt is essential in making rechargeable lithium batteries used in millions of products sold by the tech industry. The workers in the DRC mines are exploited and lead horrible, deprived lives. The Congolese government also takes some damage as well, as "blood minerals" exported from the Congo are used to further fund the ongoing coups and civil wars that seem never to end.