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La Cañada High School

Opinion: There’s a Dark Side to Buying Electric Cars

Even though electric cars are eco-friendly, they are not necessarily human friendly.

This is because of the Cobalt used to make the lithium-ion batteries that power these cars. It turns out that children are being exploited in the process of mining the precious mineral, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is where the majority of cobalt is being mined.

According to cnn.com, the Congo “produces about two-thirds of the world’s cobalt and is estimated to sit atop half of the globe’s reserves. There have been warnings about child labor before — Amnesty International highlighted the problem in 2016 and Glencore (GLNCY), a leading cobalt producer, said last month that some small mines in the DRC are using children.”

Over the past two years, as it has drastically increased in demand, the cost of Cobalt has quadrupled. In January 2016, Cobalt cost a little over $10 a pound, and in April 2018, it was going for anywhere from $40-$50 per pound.

Various companies such as BMW, Daimler, which owns Mercedes, and Volkswagen have stated that they do not want to buy Cobalt that comes from mines that use child labor. BMW also said that they want to consider buying Cobalt directly from miners.

Daimler said that it will be requiring Cobalt suppliers “to disclose their supply chain right through to the mine,” according to CNN.

Volkswagen has taken similar measures, which are to make sure that child labor is not being used by its suppliers. The company stated that it will not deal with suppliers that do not follow its rules.

CNN wrote that Tesla receives “most of its cobalt from suppliers outside the DRC.”

It is quite difficult for companies to successfully determine where the Cobalt they will use comes from. This is because at the DRC, dealers at the markets don’t even ask where the Cobalt came from or how it was obtained. It is then processed, mixed with Cobalt which comes from other mines, and  used to make batteries for products all over the world.

It is very, very unfortunate that children are being exploited and forced to work just so batteries can be made for products such as electric cars. Companies should do everything in their power to ensure that children are being protected. Children are suffering so that we can have electric cars. Until car companies can guarantee their customers that they are producing cars that weren’t made with a material mined by underage children, there is no such thing as a moral electric car.

 

Information for this article came from CNN.

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