Cobalt Red is an exposé of the toll taken on the people and environment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by cobalt mining, as told through the testimonies of the Congolese people themselves. Activist and researcher Siddharth Kara has traveled deep into cobalt territory to document the testimonies of the people living, working, and dying for cobalt.
Cobalt Red takes the form of a righteous quest to expose injustice through a series of vignettes of exploitation and misery ... Many of Kara’s interviews are carried out under the gaze of armed guards and, although he describes in sharp detail the poverty and hazards faced by the miners, the limitations of his method are evident in places where the locals are flattened into brief figures of suffering ... But the strength of the book lies in how Kara... analyzes the exploitation that extracts value from the miners’ labor, then launders their tainted product into the global supply chain ... The fervor of Kara’s abolitionism contrasts with his proposal for reform, which prioritizes “accountability” from those who profit from the miners’ labor.
Kara’s book is timely, important, compelling, and while the subject is tough his approach is clear and concise and, in that way, easy to read ... Cobalt Red is largely anecdotal by necessity, because very little hard data exist on the Congo cobalt supply chain. But the anecdotes are rich and detailed, the product of several years spent inside the Congo at great risk to himself ... Kara paints unflinching portraits of the people who toil at the bottom of the rechargeable battery supply chain ... Kara doesn’t spend much time evaluating the depth of corporate indifference. To me this seems to be a subject for journalists to further explore.
If you want to know what’s being unleashed by the rush to mandate electric cars for a so-called clean-energy transition, read Cobalt Red. It will leave you almost as shaken as its author, Siddharth Kara, who braved lawless militia and state-backed soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo as he visited the fountainheads of the world’s lithium-battery supply chain ... The book has no photographs, an understandable absence given the risks of using a camera with armed guards everywhere. Instead Mr. Kara captures the impact of artisanal mining through the powerful stories of the miners—men, women and children—that he has gleaned through interviews. It’s often hard to read his descriptions of the miners’ daily lives, the risks, accidents, promises unfulfilled and, too often, heart-wrenching tales of maimed or dead children ... Cobalt Red concludes that the 'exploitation of the poorest people of the Congo' is a 'moral reversion.' Amen.