The Cobalt Miners of the Congo
It was still dark, as dawn started to break
The rain fell, as he stepped outside
The air smelt dank, he shook himself awake
Stretched his limbs and opened eyes wide
He yawned as he started his two mile walk
With no shoes and his trousers were torn.
His friend then appeared, but they did not talk
They had no food and their clothes were worn.
In the distance they saw, large mounds of soil
Scarring the landscape, with their browns and reds.
They were here to begin another day of toil
They held hands together and lowered their heads
A group they approached, were picking through stones
Whilst others carried large bags on their backs
Some were so young and as thin as bones
And they sat in the mud, filling wet sacks.
They’d never been to school, or owned a football
Watched a television or played a video game
Instead they got down on their knees to crawl
To collect dirty nuggets, was their aim.
The tunnels were narrow and had been dug by hand
They had no supports and were prone to collapse
They went down deep, right under the land
But they were small enough, to get through the gaps.
A child of four, then started to cry
‘Get back to work’ shouted a man
A large group of children, who dug nearby
Said ‘Let’s shovel as fast as we can.’
They were digging for as little as eight pence a day
In dangerous conditions, not knowing why
All they knew was, that they needed the pay
To buy some food, or else they would die.
Above on the surface, they were collecting cobalt
Waist deep in water and shivering with cold
Dirty and wretched, for the world to exalt
The latest technologies, that sell like gold.
They didn’t know their roles, in the sprawling supply chain
With their broken headed hammers and metal spades
In helping huge corporations with their ill-gotten gain
And supplying minerals to the multinational trades.
There are thousands of unregulated, unmonitored mines
Where men, women and children, work as slaves
As they toil for our phones, in deep dark confines
Whilst others die in the rubble, that are their graves.
They work in conditions that produce clouds of dust
That cause serious long term problems, to their health
Whilst the rest of us clutch, gadgets, we feel we must
Rush out and purchase with our wealth.
In stark contrast, to our glamorous shop displays
People are working in tunnels beneath the rock
Where they sleep at night and toil in their days
If we could just see them, we’d all be in shock.
Millions enjoy the benefits of new technology
But very rarely even ask how its made.
There is sometimes the occasion, when there’s an apology
As we recognise the absolute greed of this trade.
Amnesty International, found no country legally require
Firms to publicly report their cobalt supply
So companies continue therefore to acquire
This element for use, its all too easy to deny.
The abuses of mines, which remain out of sight
There are no regulations of this global need
So these people remain, sadly in their plight
As they dig with their hands, until they bleed.
It’s a major paradox, that in this digital time
The most innovative companies, still can sell
Technological devices, it’s an absolute crime
Acquiring materials without having to tell,
How these components were sourced at the very start
And how many people risk their lives for our wares
It’s up to these multinationals to show some heart
And get involved and change these dreadful affairs.
Companies must not just stop their relationship
With a supplier, if human rights risks have been found
But remedial action and taking real ownership
For the harm suffered by those underground.
Ten grams are needed, for a smartphone
And ten to twenty pounds for a car
It’s an ounce for a laptop, it is now known
But instead we all look from afar.
The worry in how it’s mined, is no concern
So do we let it continue, knowing the harm
Posed for those people, will we ever learn
Surely we should look on with alarm.
Finally they finished, all muddy and starving
No food had they eaten all day
But back home in England, our batteries are charging
What else is really left to say.
So tired though the mud, they walked side by side
The long two mile walk back to sleep
Hungry and dirty and totally denied
Money to pay for their keep.