Joe Rogan podcast guest explains 'heartbreaking' source of electric vehicle, iPhone batteries in viral video

TECHNOLOGY

A Harvard visiting professor and modern slavery activist exposed the “terrible” cobalt mining industry in the Congo in a recent episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” that went viral. The video has already amassed over a million views and counting.

Siddharth Kara, author of “Cobalt Red: How The Blood of The Congo Powers Our Lives,” told podcast host Joe Rogan that there is no such thing as “clean cobalt.”

“That’s all marketing,” said Kara.

Kara told Rogan that the level of “suffering” of Congolese people working in the cobalt mines was staggering.

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Podcast giant Joe Rogan reacted to a guest's stories about the cobalt mining industry in a recent episode.

Podcast giant Joe Rogan reacted to a guest’s stories about the cobalt mining industry in a recent episode.
(The Joe Rogan Experience/Spotify)

When asked by Rogan if there were any cobalt mines in the Congo that did not rely on “child labor” or “slavery”, the Harvard visiting professor told him that there were not.

“I’ve never seen one and I’ve been to almost every major industrial cobalt mine” in the country, Kara said.

One reason for this is that demand for cobalt is exceptionally high: “Cobalt is in every rechargeable lithium battery manufactured in the world today,” he explained.

As a result, it’s hard to think of a technology that doesn’t rely on cobalt to work, Kara said. “Every smartphone, every tablet, every laptop and, crucially, every electric vehicle” needs the mineral.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the poorest nations in the world.  (AP Photo/Clarice Butsapu)

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the poorest nations in the world. (AP Photo/Clarice Butsapu)

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“We cannot function on a day-to-day basis without cobalt, and three-quarters of the supply comes from Congo,” he added. “And it’s being mined in appalling, painful and dangerous conditions.”

But “in general, the world doesn’t know what’s going on” in Congo, Kara said.

“I don’t think people know how awful that is,” agreed Rogan.

The Biden administration recently entered into an agreement with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia to bolster the green energy supply chain, despite the DRC’s documented problems with child labor.

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Cobalt initially “took off because it was used in lithium-ion batteries to maximize their charge and stability,” explained Kara. “And it turns out that Congo is sitting on more cobalt than the rest of the planet combined,” she added.

Men work at a gold mine in Chudja, in northeastern Congo, one of the areas where so-called

Men work at a gold mine in Chudja, in northeastern Congo, one of the areas where so-called “conflict minerals” are mined.
(AFP photo / Lionel’s healing)

As a result, Congo, a country of around 90 million people, has become the center of a geopolitical conflict over valuable minerals. “Before anyone knew what was going on, [the] chinese government [and] Chinese miners have taken control of almost all major mines and the local population has been displaced,” Kara said. Subsequently, the Congolese are “under duress”.

He continued: “They dig in absolutely subhuman and harrowing conditions for a dollar a day, feeding cobalt into the supply chain in every phone, tablet and especially electric car.”

British rapper Zuby recommended that his nearly one million followers watch the interview.

“This latest Joe Rogan Experience podcast is heavy,” he wrote. “If you have a smartphone or electric vehicle (that’s 100% you), I strongly recommend you listen to it.”

Some, if not all, of the world’s famous technology and energy companies are involved in the humanitarian crisis, Kara said.

“This is the backbone of the supply chain for your iPhone, your Tesla, your Samsung,” he said.

Thomas Catenacci of Fox News contributed to this report.

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