Joe Rogan’s Podcast Shows Horrifying Slave Conditions Used To Mine Materials Needed For Electric Cars

Podcast giant Joe Rogan used his show this week to shine a light on some of the horrifying slave conditions that are used to mine the raw materials used to make electric car batteries and batteries for other devices like cell phones and laptops.

Rogan brought on activist Siddharth Kara to talk about what happens at these mines in Africa, specifically in the Congo.

“Throughout the whole history of slavery, I mean, going back centuries, never, never in human history, has there been more suffering that generated more profit, and was linked to the lives of more people around the world, ever, ever in history than what’s happening in the Congo right now,” Kara said. “And the reason I say that is this: the cobalt that’s being mined in the Congo is in every single lithium ion rechargeable battery manufactured in the world today, every smartphone, every tablet, every laptop, and crucially, every electric vehicle.”

Kara noted that mining conditions in the country are so bad that people are forced at gunpoint to dig for these materials by hand.

“Cobalt really took off about 10-12 years ago,” he said. “And it’s in another part of the country in the mining provinces in the southeast of the Congo. And cobalt took off because it started to be used in lithium ion batteries to maximize their charge and stability. And it just so happens that the Congo, just as it was sitting on more than half the world’s reserves of coltan and of course, a lot of gold and diamonds and other things, is sitting on more cobalt than the rest of the planet combined. And it’s in a small little patch of the Congo, southeastern corner — a part that used to be called Katanga, and before anybody knew what was happening, Chinese government, Chinese mining companies took control of almost all the big mines, and the local population has been displaced, is under duress, and they dig in absolutely subhuman, gut-wrenching conditions for $1 a day, feeding cobalt up the supply chain into all the phones, all the tablets, and especially electric cars.”

WATCH:

TRANSCRIPTS:

SIDDHARTH KARA, ACTIVIST: We can dig into this in more depth. Throughout the whole history of slavery, I mean, going back centuries, never, never in human history, has there been more suffering that generated more profit, and was linked to the lives of more people around the world, ever, ever in history than what’s happening in the Congo right now. And the reason I say that is this: the cobalt that’s being mined in the Congo is in every single lithium ion rechargeable battery manufactured in the world today, every smartphone, every tablet, every laptop, and crucially, every electric vehicle. So you and I, we can’t function on a day-to-day basis without cobalt, and three fourths of the supply is coming out of the Congo. And it’s being mined in appalling, heart-wrenching, dangerous conditions. And so that’s why people need to know because by and large, the world doesn’t know what’s happening in the Congo.

JOE ROGAN, HOST: It’s something that people sort of know, peripherally, that, you know, they call them conflict minerals. And, you know, they know that they’re coming from an area of the world that’s very poor, but I don’t think people are aware of how horrible it is. There has been, have been some documentaries that have been done, and they’re all terrifying.

KARA: Yeah. So. So, conflict minerals was phase one. And that’s actually not cobalt.

ROGAN: What does it refer to, conflict minerals?

KARA: So, conflict minerals, also called the 3TG minerals are tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold. And those are in the eastern Congo. And that catastrophe started around the year 2000, late 1990s, 2000, shortly after the Rwandan genocide. The militias moved in and Eastern Congo is sitting on some of the largest reserves in the world of those 3TG minerals, especially tantalum. And those are all used in microprocessors. And you can think back to, you know, around the year 2000. Mobile phones first started coming out and gaining traction. I still remember my little StarTAC flip phone that I had from Motorola, you remember that? And all that supply was coming out of Eastern Congo, militias and warlords were forcing the local population at gunpoint, machete point, to dig this stuff out. And it was flowing up into the formal supply chain into mostly those first generation cell phones. And that became known as conflict minerals. Cobalt started later. Cobalt really took off about 10-12 years ago. And it’s in another part of the country in the mining provinces in the southeast of the Congo. And cobalt took off because it started to be used in lithium ion batteries to maximize their charge and stability. And it just so happens that the Congo, just as it was sitting on more than half the world’s reserves of coltan and of course, a lot of gold and diamonds and other things, is sitting on more cobalt than the rest of the planet combined. And it’s in a small little patch of the Congo, southeastern corner — a part that used to be called Katanga, and before anybody knew what was happening, Chinese government, Chinese mining companies took control of almost all the big mines, and the local population has been displaced, is under duress, and they dig in absolutely subhuman, gut-wrenching conditions for $1 a day, feeding cobalt up the supply chain into all the phones, all the tablets, and especially electric cars.

ROGAN: And we’re looking at a video now. Jamie, is this the mines? 

JAMIE: It’s his video.

ROGAN: This is so crazy to see.

KARA: This is the bottom of the supply chain of your iPhone, of your Tesla, of your Samsung. I mean, I’m just naming those companies, it’s all of them, right? All of them. We’re not just picking on them. And here’s what you need to know, Joe, about this video. I was the first outsider to get into this mine. And that’s why it’s just a really short video that I was able to take. This is an industrial cobalt mine, where there’s not supposed to be one artisanal miner. Now, that’s the term use for people who are just digging by hand as opposed to tractors and excavators. There is not supposed to be one here. That’s what the story is told at the top of the chain. This mine, and I can name it, it’s called Shibaura, there is not supposed to be one artisanal miner here, according to the consumer-facing tech companies and EV companies buying this cobalt. Low and behold, I walk into this place, and this is what I see. There’s more than 15,000 human beings crammed into that pit, digging by hand. And if you have sound, you hear the mallets, you hear the shouting, you hear the the grunts, it’s a mass of humanity, you might expect to see a scene like this.

ROGAN: So, there’s a term that gets used, “clean cobalt”?

KARA: There’s no clean cobalt.

ROGAN: It’s not real? 

KARA: No, no, it’s all marketing. It’s all PR, it’s a fiction, just like that place. There’s not supposed to be any artisanal mining there. It’s all done industrially. That’s the story told at the top of the chain. And people assume, people I mean, the marketing teams at big tech and EV companies, assume, well, who’s gonna go down there and actually walk into the place and grab a video that shows no, it’s actually all raw human force that is clanking that cobalt out of the ground? So there’s no clean cobalt. There’s not a single company on planet Earth that makes a device that has a rechargeable battery in it that can reliably and justifiably claim that their cobalt isn’t coming from sources like that. And that’s the truth that needs to get out there. That’s the truth people need to understand. Because this is a story that goes back generations. There’s these fictions told at the top of the chain about what conditions are like at the bottom. And truth seekers have to go find that truth and enlighten civilization so that people, people get agitated about it, and want to do something about it. So there’s no clean cobalt, let’s just make that totally, abundantly clear. And anyone that claims otherwise is either peddling in falsehoods or is recklessly ignorant of the truth.

ROGAN: Are there any industrialized cobalt mines that use machinery and don’t use slavery and don’t use child labor and don’t use these people that live in unimaginable poverty?

KARA: I’ve never seen one. And I’ve been to almost all the major industrial cobalt mines. Here’s why I say that. Number one, they all, or almost all, will have scenes like that on them. Thousands of individuals clanking away for $1 or two $2 a day, okay? They don’t have safety equipment. All that stuff, cobalt is toxic, toxic to breathe. They’re breathing it in all day.

ROGAN: No masks, no filtration systems?

KARA: No masks, no gloves, no — half those guys are in flip flops, all right? So almost all the industrial minds will have scenes like that.

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