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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Our device-driven lives depend more than ever on tragedy in the Democratic Republic of Congo

In cobalt mining towns like Kolwezi, children emerge by the hundreds from water-logged huts to climb the rocky, 50-meter pit walls of nearby industrial mining sites. Some scrounge for cobalt inside scores of trenches and tunnels dug into the pit walls. Others climb over the concrete fences atop the pit walls to dig inside the main mining pits. One digger named Pascal tells me, “Climbing this [pit] wall is the hard part. Climbing over the concrete wall is easy.”

Pascal is one of countless “artisanal miners” who dig for cobalt in the DR Congo. The quaint term belies the exceedingly hazardous nature of their work. Indeed, a great tragedy would befall some of the artisanal miners the following day.

I meet 10-year-old Lubo at the foot of one of the enormous pit walls. He shows me a raffia sack that contains several small chunks of heterogenite, the primary source of cobalt in Congo. Lubo…

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