shocking conditions at a congo cobalt mine exposed on joe rogan podcast

Verification Status – Mostly Verified: We know this is a mining pit and that it is in Africa but it is difficult to verify things such as the geocoordinates of the mine, the ownership of the mine, the complacency of the Congolese and Chinese governments, the complacency of tech companies who use the mineral in their batteries, and the date the video was taken. Presumably many of these questions will be answered in the author’s forthcoming book.

Bias Alert – One-sided: Fossil fuel industry / anti-green energy

Lithium Ion batteries often include a cathode made of refined cobalt, a mineral found in vast abundance in the Congo but not so much in the rest of the world. As a quick note to readers, the Congo is an African nation with a long history of war and slavery dating back to King Leopold II of Belgium who abused the natives to build his rubber empire for automotive tires.

Author Siddharth Kara recently went on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast to discuss his new book “Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers our Lives” coming out in January of 2023 which is all about the cobalt supply chain and the horrific conditions of the laborers in the mines of the Congo which supplies the vast bulk of the global cobalt supply. During the podcast in the video version he shows a clip of one of the mines showing thousands of human miners digging at the ground with hands to unearth cobalt.

Watch the video here:

Viewers should start watching the video at timestamp 4:50 (linked above) and watch until 7:25 to see the video and hear the context.

According to Siddharth big tech companies need the cobalt from the Chinese-owned mines of the Congo so bad they use PR and Marketing spin to lie about the source of their materials. Before arriving at the mines he himself did not expect the conditions he found based on that information.

Texas-based Tesla Motors for their part started distancing themselves from rechargeable batteries that use cobalt last year and in an article from April of this year the website Electrek claimed half of all new Tesla cars were being built without using cobalt instead preferring iron-phosphate or “LFP” batteries. The problem with switching to LFP batteries is that they give cars a shorter range and are less efficient meaning Tesla is opening themselves up to competition from tech / automakers that stick with the cobalt-based batteries which the slave and child labor in the Congo mine with their bare hands and without protective equipment, medical care, or decent wages.

Other tech companies have started in the same direction too, but it seems there isn’t a better option in terms of battery capacity, efficiency, and weight just yet. That means devices like electric cars or semi trucks will either have to use cobalt batteries largely based on slave / child labor or suffer shorter ranges, andd evices like smartphones and electrical grid battery packs will have to do the same or have worse battery life.

In the video you can hear Siddharth refer to “artisianal miners” this is a fancy way of saying human labor used for mining as opposed to heavy machinery based mining. During the full podcast episode (and presumably in his book) he discusses how the mining operations themselves claim to use mostly heavy machinery equipment for the mining not thousands of humans hammering and digging at the dirt. He also says while there he heard stories about human miners being burried alive almost daily due to makeshift shafts without proper supports, workers with broken or disfigured limbs, and forced labor at these mines.

The mines he asserts are all owned by China and are protected by the Congo’s military the FARDC who patrol with kalashnikov’s ready to attack anyone sneaking into the area to unveil the truth of how the minerals are being mined.

As the world continues to use more battery-based tech in our cars, homes, and computers we will have to grapple with the lack of humanity that brings us the base materials for that world at some point.

The United States owns only one Cobalt mining operation on US soil which is located in Idaho. There are no US companies directly involved with cobalt mines in the Congo or with the horrific labor absuses uncovered in the video above.

Further Reading on the topic “Cobalt Mining”

  • Global Cobalt Reserve Estimates (Statista) –
  • In Idaho, America’s first, and only, cobalt mine in decades is opening ( –
  • Testimony: China-backed cobalt mines in Congo exploit 40,000 child workers (Catholic News Agency) –
  • The Dark Side of Congo’s Cobalt Rush (The New Yorker) –
  • Chinese Company Removed as Operator of Cobalt Mine in Congo (New York Times) –
  • Congo’s Cobalt Controversy (Global Edge) –
  • One of World’s Biggest Cobalt Mines Is at Stake in Congo Fight (Bloomberg) –

Featured image a screenshot of the video embedded above


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