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The Shanghai Auto Exposition 2023 and The Ethics of Cobalt

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With the beginning of this year’s Shanghai auto exposition in 2023, the predominant cars and other vehicles on offer have mainly been electric vehicles (EV) and hybrid vehicles, which mainly use cobalt to create electric batteries that run the vehicle. 

In the exposition, car companies presenting their new vehicles, such as BMW and Nissan showcasing new vehicles, particularly electric and hybrid ones, claim that EV vehicles will be clean and have low carbon emissions. 

Unfortunately, these companies are either being malicious, misinformed or turning blind alleys to the blood and sacrifice that goes into the production of batteries; these are not just batteries in their vehicles, but the batteries maintain modern ways of life.

Mr Siddharth Kara Is an author, journalist and researcher in supply chains and cobalt mining; in his new book Cobalt Red How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives, he presents the case against corporations and the exploitations of poorer nations. 

His whole argument can be found on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, where he breaks down the importance of cobalt and the appalling, inhumane and humanitarian crisis caused by cobalt mining. 

On average, people who work in the Congo cobalt mines earn two dollars a day per sack of cobalt they have mine without protective gear. The chemicals from these materials cause infertility, the loss of a child, and a host of other concerns. 

Cobalt mining practices are reminiscent of something out of the 19th century, with people using primitive pickaxes and wooden beams to maintain the tunnels where the digging occurs.

luxury black car exposed in the showroom  Shanghai Auto Exposition

Electric Vehicles and Cobalt

Globally there are only a few deposits of cobalt available on this planet which can be Gathered from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia, with final deposits available in Sudbury, Canada and Norilsk.

Increasing demand deposits of cobalt led to a decrease in the conditions of miners working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, conditions which. 

According to Siddharth Kara, it can be likened to the state of the Congo when it was controlled by Leopold II of Belgium, who ruled the Congo from 1885 to 1908 as his private property Congo Free State. 

During King Leopold’s period of rule, over 15 million people living in the Congo were killed and subject to other travesties that can be likened to the conditions currently happening with the current miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

shirtless boys raising flags  Shanghai Auto Exposition
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Chinese Car Market and Cobalt

The 2023 Shanghai Auto Expedition is targeted at the internal car market within China with the growing number of electric vehicles available and China’s massive population of over a billion souls; however, these numbers can be hotly debated. 

Due to China having a large population and, more importantly, China’s number of registered Vehicles at 319,030,000 Units in Dec 2022, It’s essential to factor these numbers into China’s growing electric vehicle market. 

The current Sales of gasoline-electric hybrids and all-electric vehicles rose 26.2% over a year ago in the first three months of 2023 to 1.6 million, according to the China Association of Auto Manufacturers. 

Sales of purely electric vehicles rose 14.4% to 1.2 million, while hybrids increased 75.1% to 433,000.

The increasing demands globally for COBOL electric vehicles mean a deterioration of conditions for people in the poorest nations due to being at the bottom of the global supply chain. 

A supply chain is where goods, services and resources are added to creating and distributing products with processes like mining at the bottom of the supply chain. 

As goods move higher up the supply chain, the money paid to the people doing these tasks increases; for example, a web designer gets paid more than a person creating the computer’s keyboards and circuitry. 

These principles naturally apply to the minerals required to run electric vehicles; the minerals in an electric vehicle, 8 kg of lithium, 14 kg of cobalt, and 20 kg of magnesium, can be much more for Tesla-run batteries which, for example, contain 62.6 kg/138 pounds of lithium.

close up of illuminated text against black background  Shanghai Auto Exposition
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Environmentally Friendly Electric Vehicles

Throughout each presentation during the Shanghai Auto Exposition 2023, each company highlighted and continually spoke about how their EV technology will be green and that the supply chain throughout the manufacturing process will be carbon friendly. 

Ultimately this is entirely nonsense; the supply chain is not environmentally friendly as the damage caused to the environment throughout the mining process. 

As for the people who are mining, they only get paid $2 a day to collect minerals that help run electric vehicle batteries; the process throughout the supply chain is riddled with unethical practices that are likened to the slavery of the 17th and 18th centuries.

oriental pearl tower  Shanghai Auto Exposition
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