Global activists may be quick to boycott products made with cobalt sourced through artisanal small-scale (ASM) mining, but it's often impossible to tell the difference between ASM-mined cobalt and ethically sourced cobalt. It's up to the companies making products that require cobalt to ensure responsible mining operations that support local communities and guarantee just conditions for workers.
Report after report has revealed the dangers and destruction that ASM mining is causing in the DRC. Increased demand has caused the ever-expanding industry to inflict even more suffering in the DRC. While companies must be at the forefront of combatting this, it will take a multifaceted and international effort to ensure responsible mining is taking place.
Exploitation and suffering in the DRC are nothing new, as the origins of these sordid practices go all the way back to the colonial period, in which the Belgians ruthlessly extracted resources from the country via incredibly brutal methods. Indeed, the current exploitation of the DRC is just another facet of contemporary imperialism and neocolonialism, as foreign powers and large corporations continue to extract the DRC's precious resources at the expense of the country's local population.