E&M

2020/3

Matteo Castelnuovo Paola Casati

Cobalt: Blue Gold in the Energy Transition

In 2020, the global demand for cobalt should exceed 120,000 tons; globally, 71 percent of this mineral is extracted in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The ethical problems linked to the exploitation of adults and children in the cobalt production process pose urgent moral and image questions for technology multinationals and the large producers of electric automobiles, that risk alienating a growing number of consumers and institutional investors. Between 15 and 17 tons of cobalt are produced each year by the informal sector made up of miners that operate through illegal concessions granted by industrial establishments. The need thus emerges to make the supply chain of lithium ion batteries more sustainable and traceable, and to revive artisanal extraction.

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