AN ETH­I­CAL MINE­FIELD

Business Traveller - - AVIATION - Becky Am­bury

Hear the word ar­ti­sanal and you’ll likely think of sour­dough or cheeses; how­ever, it has a more sin­is­ter con­no­ta­tion when it comes to cobalt min­ing. Pro­moted as an al­ter­na­tive to in­dus­trial min­ing, which has se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal con­se­quences, ar­ti­sanal min­ing fre­quently sees poorly paid work­ers en­gaged in a back­break­ing process of gath­er­ing cobalt by hand, of­ten with­out pro­tec­tive equip­ment such as gloves or masks. The threats posed to work­ers are grave and nu­mer­ous: phys­i­cal in­jury from tun­nel col­lapses are com­mon, as are breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties from the dust cre­ated from break­ing up rocks, while there is grow­ing ev­i­dence of a link be­tween the toxic fall­out from min­ing and birth de­fects. And it’s not only adults en­dur­ing these con­di­tions, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and CBS News have re­ported on the use of child labour in the mines, with even those too young to work sub­jected to the haz­ards on their moth­ers’ backs while they work.

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