The Cobalt Miners of the Congo

The Cobalt Miners of the Congominers

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.

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2 thoughts on “The Cobalt Miners of the Congo

  1. These words give a voice to the children that have none. They toil for a pittance to make sure that we can use our shiny new devices. Powerful words that describe their plight.

    Like

  2. Utterly appalling that this can happen in the 21st century, whilst the multi billion conglomerates turn a “blind eye” because their “bottom line” is showing a “healthy profit”. Nicely highlighted in rhyme by CA Warren- Howles .

    Like

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