Why has mechanized mining never developed in Congo?

Why has mechanized mining never developed in Congo?

Lack of infrastructure has often been cited as one of the main reasons for the conflicts in eastern Congo. The mining areas are hard to reach, mining work is done by hand and simple, makeshift tools and the miners are almost entirely comprised by the (often enslaved) local population. Farming is difficult, because of the lack of roads to bring the produce to town and crops are often stolen by the local militias, so many are forced to turn to the mines for a stable income. Yet business is booming in the cities and supply can never satisfy the great demand for coltan and tantalum, which is extracted from it.

So how come mechanized mining has never developed there? The demand being so high, means better connections and equipment could increase the throughput and therefore the revenue. The Business has generated local and foreign revenue, so there should be no lack of capital for reinvestment. A better infrastructure would also make the region more secure, therefore holding PR value for western firms using coltan. So the incentive is there both for businesses and the government. Even the militias would benefit from more efficient mining. How come this has never come to be - neither after the Congo crisis nor after the civil war?


Why has mechanized mining never developed in Congo? - History

Changing Domestic Priorities and China-DRC Relations

China’s relations with the DRC after its independence in 1960 have been bumpy at best. While Beijing established revolutionary “brother-in-arms” relations with many other new African states immediately after their colonial occupiers departed, China-DRC diplomatic relations were interrupted twice, and finally stabilized under President Mobutu Sese Seko in 1972. After Laurent Kabila overthrew Mobutu in 1997, bilateral ties continued to improve, and the past decade saw impressive growth in bilateral trade.

China has strategically shifted away from actively supporting radical ideologies around the world in the 1960s and 1970s and moved toward becoming a major economic investor that proclaims neutrality in political matters. Reinventing itself as the world’s manufacturing power house has resulted in rapid growth of China’s demand for energy, minerals and other resources. As indicated in the Tralac bilateral trade volume figures, Chinese imports from the DRC more than quadrupled from 2004 to 2007 [2]. Despite the DRC's dismal business environment, China’s huge appetite for copper, cobalt, other minerals and the vast potential of the DRC to provide these metals have driven a range of large, medium and small Chinese companies and banking institutions into the heart of the largest country in Africa. These companies have built some impressive landmark buildings such as the National Parliament, the People’s Palace, and the country’s largest outdoor venue, Stade des Martyrs (The Martyrs’ Stadium). China’s Huawei Technologies Corporation Ltd. has been laying and upgrading the Congolese telecommunications and Internet infrastructure. China has also provided training for students through other aid programs as a part of its overall African engagement strategy [3].

A Chinese "Marshall Plan" or Infrastructure for Resources?

Yet the aforementioned projects are dwarfed by the massive $9 billion dollar, multi-year multi-project deal that the two countries signed in 2008. Negotiations began in the fall of 2007 for the amount of $5 billion, and another $3.5 billion were added to the deal later. Under the terms of the deal, the Export-Import Bank of China pledged a $9 billion loan and finance to build and upgrade the DRC’s road (4,000 km) and rail system (3,200 km) for transportation routes that connect its extractive industries, and to develop and rehabilitate the country’s strategic mining sector in return for copper and cobalt concessions (Reuters, April 22, 2008). In return, China will gain rights to extract 6.8 million tons of copper and 420,000 tons of cobalt (proven deposit)—and the operations are expected to begin in 2013 [4].

The DRC National Assembly approved the agreement in May 2008. After some adjustment on the Chinese side, three major Chinese companies, China Railway Group, Sinohydro Corporation and Metallurgical Group Corporation, controls a total of 68 percent of the new joint venture Sicomines, with the rest of the shares held by Gécamines and the DRC government [5]. By May 2008, 150 Chinese engineers and technical personnel were already in the DRC working on the new joint venture (Northern Miner, May 19, 2008).

The scope of this infrastructure in exchange for resources agreement is unprecedented in many ways. The promised investment is more than three times that of the DRC government’s annual budget ($2.7 billion for 2007). The Chinese Ambassador to the DRC hailed the deal as only the beginning of China’s active promotion of its relations with the DRC. But Congo’s Infrastructure Minister Pierre Lumbi praised it as a “vast Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of our country’s basic infrastructure.” Other than long distance road and rail construction, the package also includes two hydro-electric dams and the rehabilitation of two airports [6]. If fully disbursed, this will be the single largest Chinese investment in Africa. No other countries or international financial institutions have come close to initiating such a massive project in such a short period of time.

Many see the influx of Chinese capital as hope that the DRC can finally move forward with some desperately needed infrastructure development. President Joseph Kabila stated that “for the first time in our history, the Congolese people can see that their nickel and copper is being used to good effect.” Yet critics have lashed out at the arrangement as a sellout of DRC’s natural resources. They argue that the entire arrangement is a ruse intended to veil the Kinshasa’s corrupt regime’s scheme to grab money at the expense of ordinary Congolese. Others have argued that the deal is bad for Congo due to the huge profits for China. Yet others claim that the Chinese investment will further fuel the armed conflicts raging in the most resource wealthy parts of the country.

It is difficult to arrive at a precise estimate on the mineral profits for China's initial investment. Estimates have ranged from $14 billion to $80 billion (Mining Weekly, September 28, 2008). But with the recession hitting many major developed economies, metal prices have declined sharply in recent months. For instance, copper price has dropped from $9,000 per ton at its peak to the current price of just over $3,000 [7]. Based on various calculations, Chinese profits will have to be adjusted to the market situation.

It is also hard to imagine, with such large fortune at stake, that Beijing would want to see the DRC destabilized. If anything, it is in China’s fundamental interests to build a more secure environment for its long-term presence. That may explain the specific clause in the agreement which specifies that native Congolese workers will compose 80 percent of the work force on all projects.

The Lubumbashi Copper Boom and Bust

It is too early to make definitive conclusions about the $9 billion mega deal as many Chinese copper extractors and smelters in the Southeast province of Katanga have clearly gone through a business cycle of prosperity and decline. When the worldwide demand for copper and cobalt increased, especially from China, many Chinese enterprises, ranging from large to small, went to the mining city of Lubumbashi to set up extraction smelting operations. While the large firms were securely financed and planned to lay the foundations for a long term relationship, many medium and small sized companies, with limited financial flexibility, went to Congo in the hopes of making a quick buck [8]. But after the Congolese government placed a ban on raw ore exports in 2007, these small businesses became mainly involved in processing and trading and found that, even in the midst of the copper rush, earning a quick profit was far from easy.

Unlike well-established Western companies with integrated mining and processing operations, many new Chinese firms were set up for smelting only. They depended heavily on raw materials collected from individual manual miners and once the furnace was up and running many of them found that they did not have enough supplies. The more experienced Western firms, on the other hand, could secure supply for the furnaces from their own large-scale mechanized mining operations.

When the Katanga provincial governments implemented new regulations, demanding that the processor of minerals must supply the raw materials from their own mines, many small Chinese smelting plants were forced to stop their operations due to a lack of resources and increasing cost. While some simply diversified into trading activities for large firms, others were stuck with their investment in land, plant and other equipment [9].

Contrary to popular perception that the all-powerful central government is behind all the advances of Chinese enterprises, almost none of the medium-sized and small Chinese companies receive any kind of governmental assistance. There is not even a Chinese consulate in Lubumbahi [10]. A provincial government minister told the author that there were very few cultural exchange activities between China and the Katanga province, something quite in contradiction to the assumption that China is facilitating its commercial interests through a variety of cultural and socio-political initiatives.

The continuous decline in metal prices has resulted in over 300,000 workers losing their jobs in the mines and factories around Lubumbashi. The renewed fighting and turmoil in the East has also adversely affected the security situation in the resource rich province. In the latest development, more than 10 people, including one Chinese citizen, were killed in Lubumbashi. The government security forces are stretched thin and skyrocketing unemployment is making the city more difficult to manage (Agence France-Presse, December 26, 2008).

Another “Great Game” by the Great Powers?

Despite the deteriorating business operating environment, many Chinese and international businesses continue to expand in the DRC. “There is still money to be made,” as the CEO of a Chinese medium mining firm told the author last fall. However, the situation has grown increasingly bleaker due to the country’s shaky stability and falling commodity prices.

The long-term outlook for China’s role in the DRC is not clear (the same can be said for China's overall strategy toward Africa). Even if Beijing’s $9 billion infrastructure for resources project is fully implemented, China will still remain a newcomer in the Western dominated mining sector of the DRC. For example, the 6.8 million ton copper deposit concession to the Chinese side is only about two-thirds the amount controlled by a single American firm, Freeport—operator of Congo’s huge Tenke Fungurume mine [11]. Yet there are indications that the United States and other Western countries are concerned about Chinese intentions in the DRC in particular and in Africa in general. There is also an emerging debate on whether the on-going war in North Kivu province is the result of the growing rivalry between the United States and China in the DRC [12]. In a country that has 10 percent of the world’s copper and one-third of its cobalt reserves, 75 percent of Congolese live below the poverty line. It remains to be seen whether Chinese investment actually improves the lives of ordinary Congolese or whether it merely serves to intensify the competition among the great powers for the control of the world’s natural resources and adds to the misery of the local population.


Mechanization of Production

replacement of manual implements of labor in sectors of material production or in labor processes with machines and mechanisms using various types of power and traction for their operation. Mechanization of production also covers the sphere of mental labor. Its main goals are to raise labor productivity and free humans from heavy, labor-intensive, and fatiguing operations. Mechanization of production promotes rational and economical use of raw and processed materials and power, reduction of prime cost, and improvement of product quality. In addition to improvement and replacement of equipment and production processes, mechanization of production is closely linked to a rise in the level of workers&rsquo skills and production organization and to the use of methods of scientific organization of labor. Mechanization of production is one of the main avenues of technical progress it ensures development of productive forces and serves as the material base for raising the efficiency of public production, which is being developed by intensive methods.

The technical means of mechanization of production includes operating machines, with their engines and transmission devices, which perform preset operations, as well as all other machines and mechanisms that do not participate directly in the operations but are essential for performance of the given production process in general&mdashfor example, ventilation and pumping units.

A distinction is made between partial and integrated mechanization of production, depending on the degree to which technical means are provided for production processes, and also on the types of jobs.

In partial mechanization, particular production operations or types of jobs, mainly the most labor-intensive, are mechanized, but manual labor continues to play a significant part, especially in auxiliary loading-unloading and transportation jobs.

A higher degree is integrated mechanization of production, where manual labor is replaced by machine labor in all basic operations of the production process, and also in auxiliary jobs. Integrated mechanization is carried out on the basis of rational selection of machines and other equipment operating in coordinated modes, correlated by productivity and providing optimum performance of the assigned production process. In integrated mechanization of production, manual labor may be retained for particular non-labor-intensive operations whose mechanization would not significantly ease labor and would be economically inexpedient. The human being continues to exercise the functions of control and monitoring of the production process. Integrated mechanization of production creates the possibility of using flow production methods, promotes an improvement in product quality, and ensures uniformity, a degree of precision, and constant observance of preset parameters.

The next step in improving production processes after integrated mechanization is partial or full automation.

The means of labor, as a constituent part of productive forces, are created and refined in the process of social production. The invention of new implements of labor and the introduction of new production processes are directly linked to the development of natural science and are made on the basis of cognition and use of its laws.

Until the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, the implements of labor were manual, and the number of tools that a person could operate at one time was limited by his natural implements (the organs of his body). Water, wind, and domesticated animals were among the forces of nature used for production work. During the manufactory period that preceded the industrial revolution, the division of artisans&rsquo labor and professions and the specialization of tools reached such a high degree that the prerequisites emerged for combining implements of labor in a machine and using the mechanism to replace the worker&rsquos hands and tools. K. Marx noted, &ldquoAs a machine, the means of labor acquires a material form of existence that makes possible the replacement of human effort by the forces of nature and empirical, routine procedures by the conscious application of natural science&rdquo (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed, vol. 23, p. 397).

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the refinement of implements and methods of labor, the appearance of the general-purpose steam engine, and the use of machines and mechanisms to lighten labor brought about an abrupt increase in the level and scale of production. Replacing manual labor in the performance of production and transportation functions, mechanical means of labor were the starting point of technical progress in various sectors of industry and played an important part in shaping the capitalist method of production. The industrial revolution created conditions for mechanization of production, above all in weaving, spinning, metalworking, and woodworking. The possibility of using the power of a steam engine to drive numerous machines led to the development of very diverse transmission mechanisms, which in many cases grew into highly ramified mechanical systems.

As the size of power and transmission mechanisms increase, as machines become more complex, and as new materials appear that are difficult to process, it becomes objectively necessary to use different machines and mechanisms in machine building itself. Large-scale industry created an adequate technical base for itself when it began using machines to produce machines. Throughout the 19th century, mechanization of production not only penetrated particular elements of the production process but conquered one sector of industry after another, supplanting old, traditional forms of production based on manual labor and primitive techniques. Mechanized production became widespread in all developed countries.

With the development of large-scale industry, the design of equipment for mechanization of production was refined and the power and productivity of the equipment was increased. In the late 19th century the more economical and compact internal-combustion engine was gradually introduced alongside the steam engine. The internal-combustion engine made possible the creation of new operating and transportation machines, such as tractors, motor vehicles, excavators, diesel locomotives, and air-planes. New methods of converting energy appeared, based on the use of steam and hydraulic turbines connected to electric current generators. In the first half of the 20th century the development and improvement of electric machines led to the universal introduction of group and individual electric drive for operating machines in metalcutting, wood-processing, weaving, and forging-and-pressing machine tools, as well as in mining, hoisting, and transporting mechanisms and rolling mills.

In a system of machines the object of labor passes sequentially through a series of interconnected partial processes, which are performed by a chain of different but mutually complementary machines, mechanisms, and devices. The system of mechanical means of labor leads to continuous flow production in its developed form.

The further development of mechanization of production is directed at maximum intensification of production processes, reduction of the technological cycle, liberation of labor, and implementation of integrated mechanization in the most labor-intensive sectors of production.

Among the technical means of mechanization of production that have become well developed are combination machines (combines), in which units arranged in a technological sequence automatically operate on the object of labor. The development of combines, integrated mechanization, and automation led to the creation of automatic transfer machines, automatic shops, and automatic plants, which have high production efficiency.

Under conditions of capitalist society, with the production relations typical of it, the means of labor, which initially was a machine, immediately becomes a rival to the worker, one of the chief means for exploitation of the worker and the most powerful weapon in the hands of the capitalists to suppress worker unrest. &ldquoThe introduction of machines intensified the division of labor within society, simplified the functions of the worker in the workshop, increased the concentration of capital, and even further dismembered the human being&rdquo (K. Marx, ibid., vol. 4, p. 158). The expediency of using new means of production under capitalism is determined by whether their cost is lower than the cost of the labor they replace.

In socialist society, machines and all other technical means of mechanizing labor are created and used not for competitive purposes and exploitation of the worker but rather to raise labor productivity and the economic efficiency of social production and to improve and ease the conditions of labor processes, which in the final analysis means that they are aimed at increasing the wealth and raising the cultural level of the people. V. I. Lenin wrote: &ldquoIn the old days, human genius, the brain of man, created only to give some the benefits of technology and culture, and to deprive others of the bare necessities, education and development. From now on all the marvels of science and the gains of culture belong to the nation as a whole, and never again will man&rsquos brain and human genius be used for oppression and exploitation&rdquo (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 35, p. 289).

The most favorable conditions for rational use of mechanization of production as the foundation of technical progress in industry and agriculture are created in the planned socialist economy. &ldquoLarge-scale machine industry and its extension to agriculture is the only possible economic basis for socialism&rdquo (V. I. Lenin, ibid., vol. 44, p. 135). In socialist society, mechanization of production is a powerful human weapon for easing labor in every respect and for steadily increasing social production. Mechanization is also introduced in the socialist national economy in cases where it not only has a material effect but also results in improved working conditions and greater labor safety. By fostering the elimination of heavy manual labor, a reduction in the workday, and an increase in the technical and cultural level and wealth of the working people, mechanization of production plays an important part in implementing scientific organization of production and eliminating the fundamental differences between mental and physical labor.

In the USSR, mechanization of production was the basis for industrialization of the country and collectivization of agriculture it determines the rate of growth in productivity of social labor based on further development of integrated mechanization and automation of production processes.

The implementation of mechanization of production depends above all on the supply of the most advanced machines, mechanisms, and devices to industry, construction, transportation, and agriculture (see Table 1). In the USSR the production of machines, mechanisms, devices, and equipment in the leading sectors of industry (power and electrical machine building, machine-tool building, and mining and chemical machine building) developed at very high rates. High growth rates are also typical of instrument-making and the production of radio equipment, automatic equipment and computer technology, and household electrical appliances and mechanisms.

Level and efficiency. In practice, the level and efficiency of mechanization of production for a particular sector of production or process are evaluated by different indexes, among them the level of mechanization of labor, the level of mechanization of operations, and the machine-labor and power-labor ratios.

The level (coefficient) of mechanization of labor means the proportion of mechanized labor in the total expenditure of labor to manufacture a given item or perform the work for a section, shop, enterprise, or other unit. It is determined by the ratio of the expenditure of time for the performance of mechanized and manual jobs. The index of the degree of coverage of workers by mechanized labor, which is defined as the ratio of the number of workers performing jobs by mechanized means to the total number of workers, has a similar purpose. The specific characteristics of certain types of production require the introduction of an index such as the level (coefficient) of mechanization of jobs, which is the ratio of the output produced by mechanized means to the total output. This index is used in foundry and forging shops and in transportation and construction work.

The machine-labor ratio is usually expressed as the average per-worker cost of the machines and mechanisms in production. The power-labor ratio (or, in some cases, the electricity-labor ratio) is expressed as the ratio of the mechanical and electric (or only electric) power consumed in the process of production per man-hour or per worker. These indexes are used arbitrarily for comparative evaluation of the mechanization of individual processes.

Factors considered in selecting technical equipment for mechanization of production, whose cost is included in capital expenditures and is transferred to the cost of the product for the entire period of their use, include the weight and dimensions, payback periods, power consumption, reliability of operation, durability of parts and assemblies, ability to maintain basic parameters constant for the entire period of operation, speed of adjustment, suitability for adaptation to perform other similar operations, and ease of operation, inspection, and repair.

Mechanization of production in sectors of the national economy of the USSR. The creation of large-scale socialist industry, capable of resolving the most complex scientific and technical problems and national economic tasks, is the greatest achievement of the Soviet people and represents a triumph of the Leninist ideas of socialist industrialization. The enormous activity in mechanizing work in various sectors of the national economy that has been done under Soviet power is of revolutionary importance. Thousands of types of modern, highly productive machines have been developed and introduced. Systems of machines are being built for integrated mechanization and automation of basic production processes in industry, construction, agriculture, and transportation. The use of manual and heavy labor and unskilled labor in all sectors of the national economy is being consistently reduced by increasing the technical level of production. As this takes place, the need for technical means of achieving full mechanization in all sectors grows steadily.

POWER ENGINEERING. Mechanization of production in power engineering involves the start up of large electric power plants and the creation of unified power systems. An increase in the capacity of power plants makes possible a significant reduction in the consumption of labor, materials, and fuel for the production

Table 1. Growth in production of most important means of mechanization in the USSR
191319401950196019701972
Metalcutting machine tools. 1,80058,40070,600155,900202,200211,300
Forging and pressing machines. &mdash4,7007,70029,90041,30044,000
Turbines (MW). 5.91,1792,7049,20016,19114,642
Generators for turbines (MW). &mdash4689347,91510,57813,661
AC electric motors (MW). 2802,0837,70319,45636,25940,035
Metallurgical equipment (tons). 1,00023,700111,200218,300314,000322,100
Coal combines. &mdash223448811,1301,117
Trucks. &mdash136,000294,400362,000524,5001,379,000
Tractors. &mdash31,600116,700238,500458,500477,800
Grain harvesters. &mdash12,80046,30059,00099,20095,700
Mainline diesel locomotives (sections)&mdash51251,3031,4851,488
Mainline electric locomotives. &mdash9102396323351
Power shovels. &mdash2743,54012,58930,84434,875
Weaving looms. 4,6001,8008,70016,50019,80019,500

of electric power and the use of efficient means of monitoring, regulation, and control, both for individual units and for entire power plants. The power capacity of the USSR will increase primarily through the construction of steam power plants with large power units (capacities of 300, 500, and 800 mega-watts [MW], and later with capacities of 1,000 MW and more). The operation of such power units is fully mechanized, which considerably reduces the labor requirement per unit of installed capacity. Mechanization of production in thermal power engineering is directed at improvement of the means of preparing, loading, and supplying fuel and methods of water purification and ash removal.

For hydroelectric power plants, turbines with capacities of 500 MW (the Bratsk Hydroelectric Power Plant) have been built, and turbines with 630 MW capacity are under construction (for the Saian-Shusha Hydroelectric Power Plant). Reactors with capacities of 1,000 MW and more will be used extensively at atomic power plants. A distinguishing feature of atomic power engineering is full mechanization and automation of technological processes thanks to a reduction in labor and materials expenditures, this makes atomic power engineering highly competitive relative to traditional sectors of power engineering.

MINING. In the mining industry, the aim of mechanization of production is the reduction of time required to strip, prepare, and begin exploitation of new deposits and horizons, and also reduction of expenditures for maintaining excavations in working condition, which is associated with wider integration of mechanized processes in underground and open-pit extraction of minerals. Highly productive narrow-swath combines and cutting devices that work in combination with mobile face conveyors and individual metal or hydraulic support are used in shafts. As a result of the introduction of machines and mechanisms, the level of mechanization of coal loading in gently sloping and inclined walls was more than 90 percent in 1972 the delivery of coal, underground hauling of coal and rock, and loading of coal into railroad cars have been fully mechanized. Methods of automated coal mining are being introduced, providing a significant increase in labor productivity. Hydraulic coal extraction is developing. The open-pit method of working deposits, with full mechanization of production, is developing rapidly it is based on highly productive equipment, such as draglines, rotary power shovels, transport-dumping bridges, powerful dump trucks, electric cars, dumpcars, and diesel trolleys.

NATURAL-GAS AND PETROLEUM INDUSTRY. In the naturalgas and petroleum industry the use of high-output means of mechanization of production fostered an increase in the extraction of petroleum and gas and a rise in their share in the country&rsquos fuel balance. In oil fields, powerful drilling equipment (including rigs for drilling deep wells) is in use, and multiple hydraulic drilling rigs, which perform lowering and raising operations separately and in which all drilling processes are mechanized and automated, are being introduced. The equipping of petroleum extraction enterprises with unitized automated rigs, which ensure significant savings in labor, capital, and time, is continuing. The use of unitized and group-unitized production rigs and fully prefabricated buildings and structures with metal frames provides an increase in the level of mechanization and industrialization in the construction of gas extraction enterprises, underground gas storage areas, and gas refineries. Gas pipelines with a diameter of 1,420 mm and an operating pressure of 7.5 meganewtons per sq m are used extensively to transport gas. As a result of the introduction of integrated mechanization and automation, the compressor stations of gas pipelines built in the arctic and other inaccessible regions of the country operate virtually without service personnel.

METALLURGY. In metallurgy, mechanization of production is aimed at completion of mechanization of individual labor-intensive jobs and implementation of integrated mechanization of production in blast-furnace, steel-smelting, and rolling shops. The most difficult jobs near the hearths of blast furnaces, and also all essential operations with tap holes, have been mechanized. The production of mechanized equipment for blast furnaces with capacities of 3,200 cu m is being implemented, and a complex of mechanized equipment for blast furnaces with volumes of 5,000 cu m has been developed. The introduction of new units with increased blast pressure and the use of oxygen makes possible acceleration of the smelting process, a reduction in fuel consumption, and improvement of the quality of the pig iron. In steel production sophisticated filling machines are used, the processes of breaking and setting the lining of ladles and loading large-capacity electrical furnaces are mechanized, and automatic systems are coming into increasingly wide use to control the flow of oxygen in converters, to monitor the carbon content in the metal, and to control heat in open-hearth furnaces.

There will be further development of the converter method of steel production using converters with capacities of 250&ndash300 tons and continuous steel casting with a high level of mechanization of production. To improve the quality of steel, mechanized processes such as treatment of the metal with synthetic slags, vacuuming outside the furnace, and electroslag and vacuum remelting of the metal will be further developed. Machines and equipment operating on the principle of automatic regulation of production processes and integrated mechanization of the operations of preparing the charge, loading the units, and pouring the metals have been built for the new technological processes. Natural gas has come to be used extensively in steel smelting. Fully mechanized hot and cold sheet-rolling mills with unit lines to apply metallic and nonmetallic coatings to the sheets are being introduced in the production of rolled products. The construction of precision and special mills to produce high-grade, high-precision rolled products and economical sections, as well as the creation of mechanized and automated lines for trimming, straightening, grading, stacking, and packing sheet and high-grade rolled products, is envisioned.

MACHINE BUILDING. In machine building, mechanization of production is primarily associated with the quantity and composition of the stock of metalworking equipment, since the machining operations are the most labor-intensive. In mass machine-building production, integrated mechanization of the machining processes is achieved by using unitized, special, and specialized semiautomatic and automatic machine tools. The stock of machine tools for electrophysical and electrochemical methods of machining is expanding such tools perform many labor-intensive, fatiguing, and even unhealthful manual operations in the manufacture of dies, press molds, turbine vanes, hard-alloy tools, and parts that have particularly intricate shapes or are made of materials that are difficult to work with conventional tools. The use of numerically controlled machine tools and adaptive devices is expanding, and the design and introduction of various types of programmed manipulators and robots are envisioned for the future.

Development of the production of semifinished parts whose shape and dimensions maximally approximate the finished parts will have a significant effect on the mechanization of production in machine building. For this reason, existing specialized enterprises to produce cast and forged parts are being modernized and new enterprises are being built. The proportion of metals worked by pressure is increasing. Equipment for the foundry industry will take the form of technological sets&mdashfor example, equipment for mix-preparation sections, sets of equipment for casting by the lost-wax method, and mechanized lines for molding,. teeming, and knocking out cast pieces. Integrated mechanization of production in the processes of welding, heat treatment of parts, and assembly of machines will develop significantly.

Extensive development of unification and standardization of parts and assemblies for general machine building (bearings, reduction gears, couplings, flanges, chains, and so on) and use of standardized tools and rigs, whose manufacture is being organized at specialized enterprises, exerts a significant influence on the level of mechanization of production in machine building.

HOISTING-TRANSPORTING AND LOADING-UNLOADING WORK. In hoisting-transporting and loading-unloading work, mechanization of production is achieved by using cranes, loaders, floor-mounted hoisting and transporting equipment, containers, construction hoists, elevators, cableways, and monorail delivery systems. The hoisting and transportation equipment also includes small means of mechanization, such as pulleys, crane carriages, and block and tackle. The choice of means of mechanization for hoisting-transporting and loading-unloading work is determined by the type of goods (piece, long, liquid, or bulk), the means of transportation (railroad cars, ships, or motor vehicles), the packaging materials, the amount of work to be done, the distance of shipment, and the height of hoisting.

The methods of hoisting, moving, loading, unloading, and packing loads at the shipping and destination points must be integrated and coordinated. The volume of these types of work depends on the number of transshipments. The level of mechanization in hoisting-transporting and loading-unloading work is determined by the ratio of the number of loads processed by mechanical means to the total number of loads processed. The introduction of means of mechanization for the purpose of fully replacing manual labor in intrashop and intershop loading and unloading of materials, parts, and semifinished parts, loading and unloading of railroad cars, trucks, and trailers, and stacking of semifinished and finished goods in shop and plant warehouses is very important for the reduction of labor expenditures at industrial enterprises. The main methods of implementing integrated mechanization for such jobs are rational organization of the warehouse systems of enterprises, location of warehouses as close as possible to the consumer enterprises, and integration of transportation and warehouse operations with the technological processes of the primary production operation supply of modern mechanization equipment (stacking cranes, floor-mounted electric stackers, and fork lifts) to loading areas and warehouses centralization of intraplant transportation and introduction of routed shipments use of progressive means of transportation (conveyors and monorails with automatic addressing of loads, electric tractors, and pneumatic conveying) introduction of uninterrupted transportation of freight, based on extensive use of bale and container shipping using standardized reusable packages and mechanization of auxiliary operations related to connecting and disconnecting slings in loading and unloading work, the use of containers with automatic slings, and the assembly and disassembly of bales on pallets.

CONSTRUCTION. In construction, mechanization of production is associated with the characteristic features of the technology of construction work, including high freight shipping and hauling intensity and the changeability of work sites. Mechanization of production in construction eases labor and reduces the time required to put units into operation. It is aimed mainly at the transformation of construction into a mechanized flow-line process of assembly and erection of buildings and structures from large-panel elements and assemblies manufactured at specialized plants. The increased production of construction machinery and widespread introduction of prefabricated reinforced-concrete structural members, new building materials, and highly productive work methods resulted in an increase of 60 percent in labor productivity in the period from 1960 to 1970.

Advances in the production of new structural elements, improvement of technological methods of construction, and increases in the volume of elements being installed brought about changes in a number of the parameters of construction machines, sometimes causing fundamental redesigning, and also the appearance of new machines. Powerful earth-moving, road-building, and construction machines, such as multibucket power shovels, rotary and chain trench-diggers, and wheeled single-bucket loaders, have been developed and are being used successfully. In 1972, 90&ndash97.5 percent of the most difficult and labor-intensive excavation, concrete, and erection jobs had been fully mechanized. The loading and unloading of stone, sand, gravel, chipped rock, wood, and metal has been 97 percent mechanized. The machine-labor ratio in construction increased by a factor of 2.5 in the period 1960&ndash72. About one-quarter of the total volume of construction and erection work involves construction from large building elements, assemblies, panels, and blocks with fully prefabricated supporting and dividing elements. Labor in the preparation of concrete and mortar is being mechanized at a high rate. Fundamentally new designs for small means of mechanization and hand tools are being developed among them are self-propelled machines for rolled and nonrolled roofing of industrial buildings, machines for application and smoothing of plaster, and paint sprayers with protective air screens. The next tasks in mechanizing production in construction are the introduction of machines for loading and unloading cement and for use in plastering, painting, and sanitary-engineering jobs and the implementation of integrated mechanization of production in construction and in the building-materials industry.

TRANSPORTATION. In transportation, mechanization of production is determined by the specific features of the means of transportation. On railroads, mechanization is achieved through the use of progressive means of traction (electric and diesel), an increase in the power of the locomotives (with a corresponding increase in the weight and speed of the trains), the use of large-capacity and self-unloading cars, and the equipping of railroad lines with automatic block signaling and centralized dispatching. The level of mechanization in loading and unloading work is rising on the basis of the use of hoisting and transporting machines on the railroads and sidings of industrial enterprises. Whereas 50 percent of the total volume of loading-unloading work at the freight yards of the trunk railroads in 1960 was done by the fully mechanized method, in 1972 the index was 84 percent.

The mechanization of motor vehicle shipping is continuing to develop. The proportion of large-capacity trucks and tractor-trailer trains in the motor-vehicle fleet is increasing. The use of truck cranes, trucks with hoisting tailgates, container semitrailers, and self-unloading tractor-trailers for carrying metal will make possible mechanization of loading and unloading work in a number of sectors.

Mechanization of production has reached a high level in water transportation. By 1972 the merchant marine and river fleets consisted of more than 90 percent diesel-electric and motor vessels, including dry-cargo vessels and tankers equipped with the latest navigational instruments. Sea and river ports have mechanized equipment, such as portal cranes, electric fork lifts, special hold machines, and floating loader units. More than 90 percent of the cargo in seaports is processed by fully mechanized methods. In river transportation 99 percent of loading-unloading work is mechanized. Plans call for significant expansion of the carrying capacity of sea and river ports and the creation of special highly mechanized units for loading and unloading container, bulk, and lumber cargo.

With the increasing role of liquid and gaseous fuel in the country&rsquos fuel balance, completely mechanized pipeline transportation for petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas is developing at a high rate. In 1973 the USSR had 42,900 km of petroleum pipelines and more than 70,000 km of gas pipelines. The Druzhba (Friendship) oil pipeline, the largest in the world, has been put into operation. It runs from the USSR to the countries of the socialist community.

AGRICULTURE. In agriculture, mechanization of production is one of the most important problems in increasing production efficiency and improving working conditions. The level of mechanization of all types of agricultural work, together with selection, use of chemicals, and moisture regulation, determines the productivity of agriculture.

In 1972 the power capacity of agriculture was about 265 million kilowatts (kW), or 362 million hp, more than 99 percent of which was accounted for by mechanical engines. The power-labor ratio in 1973 was 10.3 kW (14 hp) per worker. In 1973 the fleet of agricultural machines included more than 2.1 million tractors, more than 670,000 grain-harvesting combines, about 1.3 million trucks, and more than 40,000 cotton-harvesting machines. A high level of mechanization has been achieved at kolkhozes and sovkhozes in the basic field jobs (plowing planting of grains, potatoes, cotton, and sugar beets harvesting of grains, tea, and silage crops), in interrow tilling of sugar beets and cotton, in grain cleaning, in combine harvesting of grain corn, and in loading grain for hauling from the threshing area. At the same time, in 1972 vegetable planting was only 72 percent mechanized, and for hay stacking the figure was 74 percent for loading potatoes, 37 percent and for distribution of feeds, 17 percent at cattle farms and 39 percent at hog farms.

Kolkhozes and sovkhozes will receive more powerful tractors, highly productive grain combines, broad-swath and multirow machines, and composite machines, which perform several operations in one pass. Deliveries to agriculture of earth-moving and reclamation machinery, motor vehicles with larger capacity and better off-road capability, dump trucks, truck and tractor trailers, and specialized motor vehicles are increasing significantly. In animal husbandry and poultry farming the trend is toward the establishment of large specialized industrial-type farms, introduction of electrical machinery, and use of flow production lines (milking and primary milk processing, preparation and distribution of feeds, and so on).

FORESTRY. In the forestry industry, mechanization of production is also directed above all at easing labor in difficult and labor-intensive logging jobs. Processes such as felling, yarding, and hauling of timber are the most highly mechanized. By 1973 logging enterprises had more than 72,000 tractors of various types, more than 35,000 motor vehicles, and 1,600 diesel locomotives. Various types of machines and mechanisms were used to fell timber, debark logs, and load, move, and haul timber. In felling timber, 99 percent of the total volume of work is mechanized in yarding, 98 percent. Timber hauling has been completely mechanized. Hydraulic wedges and electric and gasoline-powered saws, which are controlled by one person and make it possible to saw down trees with trunk diameters up to 1 m, have come to be used. Machines have been built for skidding without chokers. Powerful logging trucks with special trailers are used to haul the timber to railroads. Highly productive semiautomatic lines for cutting bole logs, as well as machines that perform all the operations of felling trees, trimming branches, cutting the timber, and collecting it in stacks, have been developed. Seventy-five percent of the timber is sent for processing and used in furniture production, as a construction material, and as raw material for the paper and pulp industry.

LIGHT INDUSTRY FOOD INDUSTRY. In light industry and the food industry, mechanization of production is aimed at easing labor-intensive and fatiguing operations that are done mainly by women. Mechanization of production in light industry involves the organization of new types of production using newly developed materials and new raw material and with the expansion and rapid change of the assortment of products. Light industry is supplied with mechanized flow lines and has almost 500,000 pieces of automatic and semiautomatic equipment. Fully mechanized sections, shops, and entire enterprises are operating in the industry. Enterprises are installing high-output combing, ribbon, spinning-twisting, and pneumomechanical spinning machines, as well as automatic weaving machines, in place of obsolete mechanical equipment.

In the food industry, mechanized and fully mechanized lines producing bread and pastry, continuous and periodic doughpreparation units, and flow lines producing confectionery goods are being introduced. The meat-packing industry is introducing conveyor lines for slaughtering and dressing livestock mechanized flow lines for processing intermediate products, producing semifinished products, and making sausages, dumplings, and patties and systems of integrated mechanization and automation for refrigerator shops. The fishing industry is receiving ships equipped with mechanized fish-processing lines, which provide integrated processing of the catch and complete use of waste products to produce nutrient meal.

HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES. In the household appliances industry, mechanization of production is aimed at supplying service enterprises with mechanization equipment, and also at home use of various machines, appliances, and attachments that replace manual labor in preparing and cooking food, washing and ironing linen, and cleaning rooms.

Further development and advancement. The further development and advancement of equipment for mechanization of production are linked to the use of technical advances and scientific discoveries based on development of the natural sciences. The most important trends of scientific and technical progress and development of new means of labor are further development of synthesis, direct conversion of energy, the extent of processing of raw material, and protection of the environment. Under conditions of accelerating scientific and technical progress, the decisive factor in securing growth in labor productivity becomes the establishment of conditions for timely modernization of means of production, taking into account shortened periods for amortization and replacement of real fixed capital. This makes necessary a significant broadening of the range of machines and equipment produced and an increase in their unit capacity, degree of integrated mechanization, and level of automatic control of production processes, as well as extension of production specialization, and the standardization and establishment of norms for machine parts and assemblies. An important role is played by solution of the problem of integrated mechanization of agricultural production and sectors related to it (processing of agricultural products, production of mineral fertilizers and means of plant and animal protection, and irrigation and land reclamation). Further expansion of the sphere of material production and foreign trade depends in large part on the development and operation of all types of transportation, and also on road construction this requires improvement of the corresponding means of production.

Further development of the technical means of mechanization of production assumes the following:

(1) The creation of new, highly efficient machines, mechanisms, and devices, particularly continuous-operation machines and units, combination machines, and automatons, in which the achievements of modern science and technology are used extensively design of means of mechanization of production with increased speeds of operation and motion.

(2) An increase in the unit capacity of machines, with a reduction in their specific material and energy consumption and preservation of maneuverability and off-road capability for mobile pieces of machinery.

(3) The creation for various sectors of the national economy of standardized base machines, with sets of replaceable mounted and semitrailer equipment for each standard size, and the production of a broad range of mobile machines, especially loading-unloading, construction, transportation, and road machines.

(4) The use of new high-grade materials (alloy steels, light alloys, plastics, and new high-strength materials), infinitely variable hydraulic and electrical transmissions with broad ranges of speed regulation, automatic devices to maintain optimum modes of operation, and remote and programmed control.

(5) Improvement of the working conditions of service personnel through soundproofing of work areas, provision of air conditioning, and so on.

(6) The use of mechanized means of recording the quantity and quality of output under conditions of integrated mechanization and automation of production processes.


DR Congo: Cursed by its natural wealth

The world's bloodiest conflict since World War II is still rumbling on today.

It is a war in which more than five million people have died, millions more have been driven to the brink by starvation and disease and several million women and girls have been raped.

The Great War of Africa, a conflagration that has sucked in soldiers and civilians from nine nations and countless armed rebel groups, has been fought almost entirely inside the borders of one unfortunate country - the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It is a place seemingly blessed with every type of mineral, yet consistently rated lowest on the UN Human Development Index, where even the more fortunate live in grinding poverty.

I went to the Congo this summer to find out what it was about the country's past that had delivered it into the hands of unimaginable violence and anarchy.

The journey that I went on, through the Congo's abusive history, while travelling across its war-torn present, was the most disturbing experience of my career.

I met rape victims, rebels, bloated politicians and haunted citizens of a country that has ceased to function - people who struggle to survive in a place cursed by a past that defies description, a history that will not release them from its death-like grip.

The Congo's apocalyptic present is a direct product of decisions and actions taken over the past five centuries.

In the late 15th Century an empire known as the Kingdom of Kongo dominated the western portion of the Congo, and bits of other modern states such as Angola.

It was sophisticated, had its own aristocracy and an impressive civil service.

When Portuguese traders arrived from Europe in the 1480s, they realised they had stumbled upon a land of vast natural wealth, rich in resources - particularly human flesh.

The Congo was home to a seemingly inexhaustible supply of strong, disease-resistant slaves. The Portuguese quickly found this supply would be easier to tap if the interior of the continent was in a state of anarchy.

They did their utmost to destroy any indigenous political force capable of curtailing their slaving or trading interests.

Money and modern weapons were sent to rebels, Kongolese armies were defeated, kings were murdered, elites slaughtered and secession was encouraged.

By the 1600s, the once-mighty kingdom had disintegrated into a leaderless, anarchy of mini-states locked in endemic civil war. Slaves, victims of this fighting, flowed to the coast and were carried to the Americas.

About four million people were forcibly embarked at the mouth of the Congo River. English ships were at the heart of the trade. British cities and merchants grew rich on the back of Congolese resources they would never see.

This first engagement with Europeans set the tone for the rest of the Congo's history.

Development has been stifled, government has been weak and the rule of law non-existent. This was not through any innate fault of the Congolese, but because it has been in the interests of the powerful to destroy, suppress and prevent any strong, stable, legitimate government. That would interfere - as the Kongolese had threatened to interfere before - with the easy extraction of the nation's resources. The Congo has been utterly cursed by its natural wealth.

The Congo is a massive country, the size of Western Europe.

Limitless water, from the world's second-largest river, the Congo, a benign climate and rich soil make it fertile, beneath the soil abundant deposits of copper, gold, diamonds, cobalt, uranium, coltan and oil are just some of the minerals that should make it one of the world's richest countries.

Instead it is the world's most hopeless.

The interior of the Congo was opened up in the late 19th Century by the British-born explorer Henry Morton Stanley, his dreams of free trading associations with communities he met were shattered by the infamous King of the Belgians, Leopold, who hacked out a vast private empire.

The world's largest supply of rubber was found at a time when bicycle and automobile tyres, and electrical insulation, had made it a vital commodity in the West.

The late Victorian bicycle craze was enabled by Congolese rubber collected by slave labourers.

To tap it, Congolese men were rounded up by a brutal Belgian-officered security force, their wives were interned to ensure compliance and were brutalised during their captivity. The men were then forced to go into the jungle and harvest the rubber.

Disobedience or resistance was met by immediate punishment - flogging, severing of hands, and death. Millions perished.

Tribal leaders capable of resisting were murdered, indigenous society decimated, proper education denied.

A culture of rapacious, barbaric rule by a Belgian elite who had absolutely no interest in developing the country or population was created, and it has endured.

In a move supposed to end the brutality, Belgium eventually annexed the Congo outright, but the problems in its former colony remained.

Mining boomed, workers suffered in appalling conditions, producing the materials that fired industrial production in Europe and America.

In World War I men on the Western Front and elsewhere did the dying, but it was Congo's minerals that did the killing.

The brass casings of allied shells fired at Passchendaele and the Somme were 75% Congolese copper.

In World War II, the uranium for the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki came from a mine in south-east Congo.

Western freedoms were defended with Congo's resources while black Congolese were denied the right to vote, or form unions and political associations. They were denied anything beyond the most basic of educations.

They were kept at an infantile level of development that suited the rulers and mine owners but made sure that when independence came there was no home-grown elite who could run the country.

Independence in 1960 was, therefore, predictably disastrous.

Bits of the vast country immediately attempted to break away, the army mutinied against its Belgian officers and within weeks the Belgian elite who ran the state evacuated leaving nobody with the skills to run the government or economy.

Of 5,000 government jobs pre-independence, just three were held by Congolese and there was not a single Congolese lawyer, doctor, economist or engineer.

Chaos threatened to engulf the region. The Cold War superpowers moved to prevent the other gaining the upper hand.

Sucked into these rivalries, the struggling Congolese leader, Patrice Lumumba, was horrifically beaten and executed by Western-backed rebels. A military strongman, Joseph-Desire Mobutu, who had a few years before been a sergeant in the colonial police force, took over.

Mobutu became a tyrant. In 1972 he changed his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, meaning "the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake".

The West tolerated him as long as the minerals flowed and the Congo was kept out of the Soviet orbit.

He, his family and friends bled the country of billions of dollars, a $100m palace was built in the most remote jungle at Gbadolite, an ultra-long airstrip next to it was designed to take Concorde, which was duly chartered for shopping trips to Paris.

Dissidents were tortured or bought off, ministers stole entire budgets, government atrophied. The West allowed his regime to borrow billions, which was then stolen and today's Congo is still expected to pay the bill.

In 1997 an alliance of neighbouring African states, led by Rwanda - which was furious Mobutu's Congo was sheltering many of those responsible for the 1994 genocide - invaded, after deciding to get rid of Mobutu.

A Congolese exile, Laurent Kabila, was dredged up in East Africa to act as a figurehead. Mobutu's cash-starved army imploded, its leaders, incompetent cronies of the president, abandoning their men in a mad dash to escape.

Mobutu took off one last time from his jungle Versailles, his aircraft packed with valuables, his own unpaid soldiers firing at the plane as it lumbered into the air.

Rwanda had effectively conquered its titanic neighbour with spectacular ease. Once installed however, Kabila, Rwanda's puppet, refused to do as he was told.

Again Rwanda invaded, but this time they were just halted by her erstwhile African allies who now turned on each other and plunged Congo into a terrible war.

Foreign armies clashed deep inside the Congo as the paper-thin state collapsed totally and anarchy spread.

Hundreds of armed groups carried out atrocities, millions died.

Ethnic and linguistic differences fanned the ferocity of the violence, while control of Congo's stunning natural wealth added a terrible urgency to the fighting.

Forcibly conscripted child soldiers corralled armies of slaves to dig for minerals such as coltan, a key component in mobile phones, the latest obsession in the developed world, while annihilating enemy communities, raping women and driving survivors into the jungle to die of starvation and disease.

A deeply flawed, partial peace was patched together a decade ago. In the far east of the Congo, there is once again a shooting war as a complex web of domestic and international rivalries see rebel groups clash with the army and the UN, while tiny community militias add to the general instability.

The country has collapsed, roads no longer link the main cities, healthcare depends on aid and charity. The new regime is as grasping as its predecessors.

I rode on one of the trainloads of copper that go straight from foreign-owned mines to the border, and on to the Far East, rumbling past shanty towns of displaced, poverty-stricken Congolese.

The Portuguese, Belgians, Mobutu and the present government have all deliberately stifled the development of a strong state, army, judiciary and education system, because it interferes with their primary focus, making money from what lies under the Earth.

The billions of pounds those minerals have generated have brought nothing but misery and death to the very people who live on top of them, while enriching a microscopic elite in the Congo and their foreign backers, and underpinning our technological revolution in the developed world.

The Congo is a land far away, yet our histories are so closely linked. We have thrived from a lopsided relationship, yet we are utterly blind to it. The price of that myopia has been human suffering on an unimaginable scale.

Dan Snow answered readers' questions on Twitter using #AskDanSnow. Here is a selection.

Q: Did you ever feel in real danger?

A: Shots were fired when we were on the frontline, but the biggest threat was terrible roads and bad vehicles

Q: Why go back to 1500s and ignore the devastating role of revolutionary movements in destabilizing Congo the last 50 years?

A: We tried to do both. The problems of the recent past are children of the more distant history.

Q: Why haven't western nations shown greater interest in stabilising DRC considering its mineral wealth?

A: Sadly I think leaders think it's a massive, insoluble problem that they don't understand in a far away land.

Q: How do you see these countries getting out of this situation?

A: Rwanda succeeded in massive reduction in poverty, and development of infrastructure. It requires totally different leadership.

Q: I visited DRC in 2012. Why are people so unaware of the negative impact of Western Europeans (and now China too)?

A: It is a blind spot for us. I just don't know why. Perhaps we don't like to dwell on our failures.

Q: What advice do you have for businesses intending to invest in the country?

A: Have impeccable local political contacts, or don't even try.

Q: Do you think the war in Congo is the obstacle to the country's poor utilization of it natural resources?

A: Warlords control access to the resources and the bigger, more responsible mining firms will not risk the investment.

Q: Is poverty in such a rich nation caused by greedy Congolese leaders or post-colonial powers?

A: Nationality of the rulers hasn't mattered much, they've all behaved the same. The potential wealth has corrupted all of them.

Q: How difficult was it to travel through the Democratic Republic of Congo?

A: Exceptionally. Roads collapsed, bandits own the night, no road travel between the major cities.

Q: How can we help the Congolese people to benefit from their own natural resources?

A: We can pressure international players in the resources extraction industry to be more transparent.

Q: If you could pick just one thing to change in Congo, what would it be?

A: The rule of law. People need protection when rights are violated, to start businesses and to find out where the money goes.

And finally. The Um Bongo thing. Everybody asks. Mbongo in a local language means money. So kids in the street shout it at you all the time.


Alternatives to Cobalt, the Blood Diamond of Batteries

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Raw cobalt-copper ore. Kenny Katombe/Reuters

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

When John Goodenough created the first lithium-ion rechargeable battery at Oxford in 1980, he needed some cobalt. Experiments had already established that the metal is energy-dense, perfect for small batteries that need a lot of power. 1 So Goodenough made the cobalt himself, heating the precursors at very high temperatures.

Today, cobalt appears in most commercial lithium-ion batteries—but it comes at a price. The silvery metal is expensive, yes. But it also has a darker cost: a long history of human rights violations, including child mining, associated with production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Electronics devices and electric car companies don’t want to pay big bucks and connect themselves with these atrocities, so they have tried to cut down on the amount of cobalt their batteries use. Panasonic, Tesla’s battery supplier, announced at the end of last month that they are developing batteries that don’t need cobalt. And they have some help: Goodenough and other researchers have also developed rechargeable batteries that don’t need cobalt.

Batteries have a positive end, usually graphite, and a cathode, the negative end—a combination of lithium, cobalt, and oxygen in the device you are probably reading this story on. In electric cars, the cathode is usually more nickel-heavy than in smaller devices—which lessens the strain on the cobalt supply chain, but has higher processing costs and is slightly more likely to catch fire in airplanes a la the infamous Samsung Galaxy Note 7. The electrons on the outer orbit of the cobalt atom are paired up, which means it’s small, dense, and forms layers easily.

But a new wave of battery researchers, including Goodenough, are moving to materials like manganese and iron. Instead of layers, these elements come together into a “rocksalt” structure, so called for its resemblance to our favorite tableside seasoning. The rocksalt cathodes are already in use in some devices, but they don’t yet have the same high energy density as cobalt or nickel.

Researchers and companies are ready for the alternatives. “Cobalt’s expensive and people will do their best not to use it,” says Goodenough, who still works as an engineering professor at the University of Texas. Over the past two years, the price of cobalt has quadrupled, and while portable electronic devices currently use the lion’s share of cobalt, batteries for electric cars will require nearly 1,000 times more cobalt than a phone. What with anthropogenic climate change, more and more people are trading in combustion motors for an electric model. And while these trends might be better for the planet, they drive up the price of cobalt.

Cobalt is a byproduct of the production of other metals like nickel and copper, but it also exists in the earth’s crust on its own, in mines primarily in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2016, the Washington Post did an investigation into the previously opaque cobalt supply chain and revealed child labor practices and a dearth of necessary equipment.

Of course, there’s another way to avoid the perils of mining: recycling. But lithium-ion batteries last so long that people buying them over the next 10 years will outpace those who are getting rid of them, explains Elsa Olivetti, an energy studies professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Last October, she published a paper that concluded that the supply of cobalt will have to scale quickly to meet demand the next couple of years, especially with the rise of electric vehicles. Despite progress in both cathode development and cobalt sourcing over the last eight months, “I think the general conclusion that we should all think more about cobalt still holds,” she writes. “But people have already begun doing so,” creating cathodes with stable, energy-dense metals like phosphorus and iron.

Beyond both the layered and rock salt batteries, researchers are looking beyond to solid-state batteries. These batteries might require more lithium, but not necessarily cobalt, and would be much safer than the current lithium-ion batteries. 2 Cars companies such as BMW, Toyota, and Honda are researching these batteries, but Olivetti does not think the technology will have saturated the market by 2025. And until then, companies will try to mitigate the impact of cobalt batteries. Companies like Apple and Samsung have joined the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, pledging to address the worst environmental and social consequences of the supply chain. And lately, Apple has started buying cobalt directly from miners to make sure the suppliers reach their workplace standards.

Goodenough, for one, is still thinking about cobalt, even at age 96. Though he has developed a battery that works without cobalt, he doesn’t think that its days spent millimeters away from our ears are over. Though the cost is higher, he says, his original lithium-ion battery design is still good enough.

1 Correction appended, 6/7/2018 1:40 PM EDT: A previous version of this story misidentified the source of information on cobalt's properties.

2 Correction appended, 6/7/2018 1:40 PM EDT: This story was changed to clarify the role of cobalt in solid-state batteries.


The Glencore room

The Paradise Papers are an insight into the inner machinations of Appleby, one of the “magic circle” of leading offshore investment firms.

Glencore is one of Appleby’s most important clients. So central, in fact, has the company been that at one time, on the second floor of Appleby’s Bermuda headquarters, was the Glencore room.

Across the hall from the women’s bathroom, it was nondescript and rarely used. Glencore executives never visited. It contained no more than a filing cabinet, computer, telephone, fax machine and chequebook.

But the room gave Glencore a “robust footprint”, in the words of one Appleby MD, in the zero-tax island of Bermuda: a helpful asset in the event of any taxation investigation.

The files that are likely to have once lived in that room, and the contents of which were known only to a handful of people, are now globally exposed by the Paradise Papers.

What are the Paradise Papers? – video

The papers reveal some of the complexity of Glencore’s global operations and the breadth of its reach. Glencore is the largest commodity trader in the world and the biggest supplier of zinc and cobalt. The fruits of its products are used every day by millions, including anyone who drives a car or makes a call on a smartphone.

And Glencore is a company with an extraordinary history, founded in 1974 as Marc Rich and Co.

Rich, a former child refugee who became a naturalised US citizen after fleeing Nazi-occupied Belgium with his family, led his eponymous firm for two decades.

Marc Rich. Photograph: Guido Roeoesli/AP

The company forged a reputation for aggressive tactics and willingness to do business where others would not.

Glencore and its forerunner company have been accused of sanctions-busting in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, apartheid South Africa and Iran.

In 2004, Glencore was cited by the CIA as having paid $3.2m in illegal kickbacks in violation of sanctions to Iraq’s state-run oil monopoly. It has also been accused of catastrophic environmental pollution, poisoning rivers, and allowing child labour in its African mines. The company has denied all allegations.

Rich fled the US in 1983, indicted on charges of sanctions-busting, fraud and tax evasion, and accused of arms dealing. After years on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list, he was pardoned by Bill Clinton – to whom his family had been a substantial donor – in the final hours of his presidency.

Bought out of the company in 1994, Rich died in Switzerland in 2013. But the firm, headquartered in Switzerland, has continued to drive hard for exploration and exploitation rights all over the world, particularly in resource-rich, regulation-poor Africa.

And for Glencore, when it came to doing business in DRC, one man could open all doors, including the highest in the land.

Joseph Kabila assumed the presidency in 2001, after his father was assassinated by his bodyguard. But the route to the presidential palace was unchanged.

Glencore’s key man in DRC was the president’s friend: Gertler.


Congo’s Riches, Looted by Renegade Troops

BISIE, Congo — Deep in the forest, high on a ridge stripped bare of trees and vines, the colonel sat atop his mountain of ore. In track pants and a T-shirt, he needed no uniform to prove he was a soldier, no epaulets to reveal his rank. Everyone here knows that Col. Samy Matumo, commander of a renegade brigade of army troops that controls this mineral-rich territory, is the master of every hilltop as far as the eye can see.

Columns of men, bent double under 110-pound sacks of tin ore, emerged from the colonel’s mine shaft. It had been carved hundreds of feet into the mountain with Iron Age tools powered by human sweat, muscle and bone. Porters carry the ore nearly 30 miles on their backs, a two-day trek through a mud-slicked maze to the nearest road and a world hungry for the laptops and other electronics that tin helps create, each man a link in a long global chain.

On paper, the exploration rights to this mine belong to a consortium of British and South African investors who say they will turn this perilous and exploitative operation into a safe, modern beacon of prosperity for Congo. But in practice, the consortium’s workers cannot even set foot on the mountain. Like a mafia, Colonel Matumo and his men extort, tax and appropriate at will, draining this vast operation, worth as much as $80 million a year.

The exploitation of this mountain is emblematic of the failure to right this sprawling African nation after many years of tyranny and war, and of the deadly role the country’s immense natural wealth has played in its misery.

Despite a costly effort to unite the nation’s many militias into a single national army, plus billions of dollars spent on international peacekeepers and an election in 2006 that brought democracy to Congo for the first time in four decades, the government is unable or unwilling to force these fighters — who wear government army uniforms and collect government paychecks — to leave the mountain.

The ore these fighters control is central to the chaos that plagues Congo, helping to perpetuate a conflict in which as many as five million people have died since the mid-1990s, mostly from hunger and disease. In the latest chapter, fighting between government troops and a renegade general named Laurent Nkunda has forced hundreds of thousands of civilians here in eastern Congo to flee and pushed the nation to the brink of a new regional war.

The proceeds of mines like this one, along with the illegal tributes collected on roads and border crossings controlled by rebel groups, militias and government soldiers, help bankroll virtually every armed group in the region.

No roads lead to Bisie. This hidden town of 10,000 lies about 30 miles down a winding, muddy footpath through dense, equatorial forest. Built entirely for the mine, it is a cloistered world of expropriation and violence that mirrors the broad crisis in Congo.

This is Africa’s resource curse: The wealth is unearthed by the poor, controlled by the strong, then sold to a world largely oblivious of its origins.

Under Colonel Matumo, Bisie is a Darwinian place where those with weapons and money leech off a desperate horde.

The chokehold begins far from the mine. At the trailhead, a burly soldier demands 50 cents from each person entering the narrow trail to the mine. A clamoring crowd hands wrinkled bills to the soldier, who opens the wooden gate a crack to let in those with cash.

At the other end of the trail, at the base of the mountain, another crowd forms at the gate into Bisie. Porters exhausted from the two-day trek sprawl on felled trees, waiting for soldiers to inspect their loads and extract another tribute. The price is usually 10 percent of entering merchandise and cash.

The men at the checkpoints describe these payments as taxes. But the people of Bisie do not get much in return. The village is a filthy warren of mud huts. Hundreds of haphazard latrines flood narrow, trash-filled alleyways. Disease courses through the town, carried by water from a river that is used for everything from washing clothes to cleaning ore. Jawbones of slaughtered cows and goats stud the riverbed. When it rains, the river overflows, spreading cholera and dysentery.

In some ways, Bisie is a thriving commercial town. It has makeshift theaters showing bootleg kung fu movies on televisions powered by sputtering generators. Its bars are stocked with Johnnie Walker whiskey and Primus beer, each bottle carried through the jungle. There is no telephone service, but a ham radio system passes messages between the mine and the outside world. It has hotels that double as brothels. There is even a clapboard church.

But these meager comforts do not come cheap. A bowl of rice and beans costs $3 here, six times the price along the main road. Mud huts rent for $50 a month or more, in part because opportunism is the town ethos.

A History of Plunder

The saga of Bisie is merely another chapter in Congo’s epic tragedy. Though blessed with an incomparable endowment of minerals and water and abundant fertile land, this vast nation in the heart of Africa has known little but domination and war since its founding as a colony under King Leopold II of Belgium in the 19th century.

The bloodshed and terror have always been driven in part by the endless global thirst for Congo’s resources, “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience,” as the novelist Joseph Conrad put it.

Just as the pneumatic tire was invented, King Leopold began sucking every last drop of rubber from Congo’s jungles, his militia killing or maiming anyone who stood in his way. Generations later, the country’s vast reserves of cobalt, a mineral essential for building fighter jets, helped the longtime ruler of the nation then known as Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, keep the United States firmly behind him during the cold war despite his obstinately kleptocratic and repressive ways.

Congo’s riches have played a starring role in the conflict that has unfolded in the past decade. The war began in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, when the perpetrators of that slaughter fled into neighboring Congo. Rwanda backed an effort to flush out the killers in 1996, but it soon led to a huge regional conflict that descended into a war of plunder by half a dozen nations and countless homegrown rebel groups.

A peace deal officially ended the war in 2003, and elections in 2006 brought Congo its first democratically chosen leaders in more than four decades. And in many parts of the nation, which covers an area the size of Western Europe, life is slowly returning to normal. International investors, especially China, have begun pouring billions into Congo’s economy.

But here on Congo’s eastern edge, the war never really ended. The unfinished battles over the Rwandan genocide play out on Congolese soil among armed groups fueled by lucrative mines like the one in Bisie and by other mines controlled by the Hutu militias that carried out the genocide.

Those fighters have been hiding in the jungles of eastern Congo for more than a decade, sowing terror and reaping profits from the nation’s minerals. Other rebel groups, including Mr. Nkunda’s largely Tutsi militia, have gleaned profits from illegal taxes levied when valuable minerals and other resources pass through territory they control, according to analysts and government officials in the region.

The Discovery of Tin Ore

In 2002, a hunter discovered chunks of tin ore, known as cassiterite, lying on the slopes of a mountain deep in the jungle in eastern Congo. Almost overnight, hordes of miners arrived, driven by fevered reports of piles of ore lying around waiting to be carted away. But civilians were not the only ones interested. Armed groups fought pitched battles over who would control the area. In 2004, a group of Mai Mai fighters allied with the government took control.

Under the terms of the peace agreement that ended the war, the militia was absorbed into the national army and became the 85th Brigade. The fighters were supposed to be sent for military training and then deployed around the country to dilute the influence of regional militias.

But the 85th refused to disband. Its commander, Colonel Matumo, is known as a ruthless warrior with a keen eye for business who believes, as most Mai Mai do, that he has special powers connected to water that make him all but invincible. During the war these fighters would wear drain plugs dangling from their bulging biceps as amulets of their potency. These days the brigade’s members have mostly abandoned this practice in favor of the more practical army greens.

They violently enforce a system of illegal taxation of every worker, merchant and mineral trader who comes to the mine.

That system has ensured that they and their allies have skimmed millions of dollars in the years the militia has controlled the mine — a costly, lost opportunity for a nation desperately in need of development.

Tin has replaced lead content in the solder used to make many electronic devices. And as the price shot up in recent years, to a high of $25,000 a ton in May, Colonel Matumo and his men staked out a whole ridge of the mine complex as their personal property. Senior commanders of the brigade have built large houses and opened businesses, like hotels and bars, with the proceeds of the mine.

A company called Mining and Processing Congo bought the rights to search for tin ore at the mine in 2006. But the militia has effectively barred the company, which is owned by a consortium of South African and British investors, shooting at its helicopter and chasing its representatives from the premises.

When the company started working on a road to link the mine to the main road, local officials blocked the route. When it began working on a campsite for its geologists to begin prospecting, soldiers opened fire on the workers, injuring several, company officials said.

“We have all our documents and permits in order,” said Brian Christophers, the weary managing director of the company. “We have written to the head of the military, the minister of mines and even the president. But there are no rules in Congo, just the rule of the gun.”

Mr. Christophers said that his company was prepared to help pay not just for a road to the mine but also for schools, clinics and a hydroelectric power station. It also promised to invite government agencies to enforce labor standards. But none of them have had the chance.

Indeed, some workers are suspicious of the company’s plans, fearing that a road would put thousands of porters out of work and that mechanized mining would drastically reduce employment here. The militia has tapped this unease to convince some workers and local officials that the company will simply abscond with the minerals and leave the local people empty-handed.

The militia levies a tax on every enterprise here. For the small-time peddlers who sell tiny packets of laundry soap, cooking oil and powdered milk, the tax is usually $20 a week, a hefty slice of profits. From prosperous brothels, bar owners and mineral traders, the soldiers usually take a percentage, businesspeople here say.

One Congolese intelligence official estimated that the militia took in $300,000 to $600,000 a month in illegal taxation alone, not including the money it made from mining tin.

The workers preyed on by the militia toil in hand-dug tunnels as deep as 600 feet that are held up precariously by wood pillars. Some of the workers are children, especially in the summer, when desperate parents send boys here to earn cash for the next year’s school fees.

The tunnels are pitch-black and suffocatingly narrow. They often fill with dangerous fumes. Miners sometimes spend 48 hours straight working in the tunnels. The open pits are dangerous, too: heavy rains cause mudslides and collapses. Cave-ins, mudslides and gases kill and maim an unknown number of workers every year.

On a late-summer afternoon at the mine, a tunnel collapsed and crushed a miner’s leg. Another worker carried the man on his back as the injured miner moaned in agony, his eyes darting wildly. Blood carved tracks down his forehead and cheeks.

“My wife is pregnant,” the miner moaned. “Jesus, mama, please.”

The man had broken his leg, and his left shoulder was sliced open. He grimaced as health workers with only minimal training worked to fashion a splint from sticks and vines.

Musamaria Luseke, 22, is what passes for a doctor here. He is one of a handful of health workers who have basic first aid training and earn cash by selling medicine to sick and injured miners.

“These kinds of injuries happen all the time,” he said.

Mr. Luseke had painkillers in his metal box, but he was charging 25 cents a tablet.

“I have to eat, too,” he said.

Solidarity is in short supply here. An argument broke out over who would pay a porter $20 to carry the injured miner down the mountain.

“I didn’t tell him to go work,” shouted the owner of the tunnel, who nevertheless ponied up the $20.

Hard-rock miners who work deep in the tunnels say the money they can earn on a productive day makes up for the risk. A young man who gave his name as Pypina said he made $200 on a good shift.

But his friend Serge said such days were rare.

“We have some days where we find nothing, where we dig and dig for nothing,” he said.

Both of the young men are high school dropouts who came to the mine to work for the summer but quickly found themselves trapped in a web of debt. Serge said he hoped to go back to school, but already he had been at the mine for a year and had saved nothing.

Pypina had given up on college.

“I’ll buy a car,” Pypina said, flexing his biceps to admire the dollar sign tattooed there.

But he is a long way from buying that car. When he makes a bit of money he has to pay his debts first. With anything left, he tries to salve the loneliness of life.

“First, you need a woman,” he said. Pypina said he paid $100 to have a woman with him for 24 hours. They go on dates to the clapboard bars in the market, and he shells out $100 or more for whiskey, beer and gin. She cooks for him.

“She is like a wife for a day,” he explained.

“I am a man,” he said, describing why he spent so much on pleasure-seeking. “I cannot live without a woman. And only God knows what tomorrow will bring.”

One of Many Problems

Colonel Matumo declined to be interviewed for this article. But he made no effort to conceal his control over the mine, openly supervising the production and the sale of dozens of sacks of ore. A hotel he owns doubles as an ore depot, and each morning porters arrived to carry his latest load to the main road for sale.

A major who said he had been sent by Congo’s top military brass to assess the situation said the government wanted the militia to leave but had too many other security problems to contend with. Mr. Nkunda, the renegade Tutsi general, has been waging a fierce insurgency in another part of eastern Congo, and the army has so far been unable to defeat him.

“Samy is just one of many problems,” the major, who refused to give his name, said of Colonel Matumo. “If we can’t deal with Nkunda, how can we force Samy to go when he does not want to leave?”

Bisie may be the middle of nowhere, but the ore it produces is tightly linked to the global market. After porters bear the loads, often heavier than the men themselves, the ore reaches middlemen along the main road. One such middleman, Bakwe Selomba, said he did not mind paying the militiamen because the payment guaranteed his investment.

“To be honest, it is better for us that they are there,” he said. “I can send my buyers walking through the jungle with lots of money, but nobody will touch them as long as we pay the tax. It protects us.”

The ore is then trucked a few miles down a stretch of pavement to the village of Kilambo. There, on a slightly curved stretch of road, Soviet-era cargo planes take off and land, as many as two dozen times a day. The carcasses of two planes that presumably botched this tricky maneuver lay strewn to one side of the makeshift runway, covered in black and green mold.

The flights land in Goma, the provincial capital, where other middlemen buy and process the ore for export. Alexis Makabuza’s Global Mining Company is one of these buyers. Amid the sorting and cleaning equipment of his rudimentary processing plant sit dozens of barrels of tin ore. On each is stenciled the address of Malaysian Smelting Company Berhad, a major tin smelter. Mr. Makabuza said he sold to the company via a minerals broker.

In a handwritten contract between a local government official and a representative of Mr. Makabuza’s company signed in 2006, then operating under a different name, the company agreed to pay a large percentage of its earnings from the mine in exchange for a guarantee of security. Colonel Matumo’s militia is the only force operating in the area, and most of this money ended up in his hands, according to security officials in the region.

Mr. Makabuza shrugged off questions about his business dealings with the militia.

“We follow all the rules,” he said. “I am just a buyer like anybody else.”

Debating a Solution

Congo’s tin ore represents a relatively small slice of the world market, but in recent years supplies have been so tight that efforts to stop mining at Bisie have caused price spikes. This year, the government tried to shut down the mine, but it was quickly reopened by local authorities who feared the economic and political costs of putting thousands of miners out of work and cutting off the cash flow to a volatile renegade military commander.

Indeed, many fear banning exports of tin ore from Congo would cause more problems than it would solve.

“A blanket ban on tin from Congo is nonsense because it penalizes the millions dependent on the sector the most,” said Nicholas Garrett, a mining expert who has written reports on Congo for the World Bank and other institutions. Putting those people out of work would simply invite another rebellion, Mr. Garrett said.

The government has repeatedly asked Colonel Matumo’s men to leave the mine. In a written order issued in August 2007, Col. Delphin Kahimbi, deputy commander of the army in North Kivu, the province here, admitted that elements of the armed forces were profiting from the mine and laid out a plan to replace the renegade brigade with loyal soldiers. But the orders were never followed up, and the militia’s grip on the mine seems tighter than ever.

Julien Paluku, the governor of North Kivu, said the government must move cautiously. Already faced with a renegade Tutsi general who has large swaths of the region under siege, the government can scarcely afford to pick a fight with another armed group, he said.

“Solving this problem will take time,” Governor Paluku said.

Some analysts say the situation in Bisie is so blatant that its very persistence is evidence of collusion between the militia and powerful politicians.

“Unless immediate action is taken to transfer these soldiers out of Bisie mine and to prosecute those responsible for the large-scale looting of minerals, we can only conclude that these activities are sanctioned at the highest levels,” Patrick Alley of the anticorruption organization Global Witness, based in London, said in a statement.

In May, Senators Sam Brownback of Kansas and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois introduced a bill to require certifying minerals from Congo. “Without knowing it, tens of millions of people in the United States may be putting money in the pockets of some of the worst human rights violators in the world, simply by using a cellphone or laptop computer,” Senator Durbin, a Democrat, said at the time.

Here in Bisie, daily life offers few clues that such information age technology exists. Isolated and indebted, almost none of the town’s workers have any clue what tin is actually used for.

“It is for weapons,” suggested Djuma Assualani, 21. “Kalashnikov, bombs. They make war with it.”

“It’s gold,” shouted Makami Kimima, 18, who came to the mine to earn money to go back to school but ended up in debt instead. His fellow miners jeered at his ignorance.

“It is something like gold,” he said, chastened. “It goes to America. And China. It makes people rich.”


The Dirty Secrets Of ‘Clean’ Electric Vehicles

The widespread view that fossil fuels are “dirty” and renewables such as wind and solar energy and electric vehicles are “clean” has become a fixture of mainstream media and policy assumptions across the political spectrum in developed countries, perhaps with the exception of the Trump-led US administration. Indeed the ultimate question we are led to believe is how quickly can enlightened Western governments, led by an alleged scientific consensus, “decarbonize” with clean energy in a race to save the world from impending climate catastrophe. The ‘net zero by 2050’ mantra, calling for carbon emissions to be completely mitigated within three decades, is now the clarion call by governments and intergovernmental agencies around the developed world, ranging from several EU member states and the UK, to the International Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund.

Mining out of sight, out of mind

Let’s start with Elon Musk’s Tesla. In an astonishing achievement for a company that has now posted four consecutive quarters of profits, Tesla is now the world’s most valuable automotive company. Demand for EVs is set to soar, as government policies subsidize the purchase of EVs to replace the internal combustion engine of gasoline and diesel-driven cars and as owning a “clean” and “green” car becomes a moral testament to many a virtue-signaling customer.

Yet, if one looks under the hood of “clean energy” battery-driven EVs, the dirt found would surprise most. The most important component in the EV is the lithium-ion rechargeable battery which relies on critical mineral commodities such as cobalt, graphite, lithium, and manganese. Tracing the source of these minerals, in what is called “full-cycle economics”, it becomes apparent that EVs create a trail of dirt from the mining and processing of minerals upstream.

A recent United Nations report warns that the raw materials used in electric car batteries are highly concentrated in a small number of countries where environmental and labour regulations are weak or non-existent. Thus, battery production for EVs is driving a boom in small-scale or “artisanal” cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of Congo which supplies two thirds of global output of the mineral. These artisanal mines, which account for up to a quarter of the country’s production, have been found to be dangerous and employ child labour.

Mindful of what the image of children scrabbling for hand-dug minerals in Africa can do to high tech’s clean and green image, most tech and auto companies using cobalt and other toxic heavy metals avoid direct sourcing from mines. Tesla Inc. TSLA struck a deal last month with Swiss-based Glencore Plc to buy as much as 6,000 tons of cobalt annually from the latter’s Congolese mines. While Tesla has said it aims to remove reputational risks associated with sourcing minerals from countries such as the DRC where corruption is rampant, Glencore assures buyers that no hand-dug cobalt is treated at its mechanized mines.

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There are 7.2 million battery EVs or about 1% of the total vehicle fleet today. To get an idea of the scale of mining for raw materials involved in replacing the world’s gasoline and diesel-fueled cars with EVs, we can take the example of the UK as provided by Michael Kelly, the Emeritus Prince Philip Professor of Technology at the University of Cambridge. According to Professor Kelly, if we replace all of the UK vehicle fleet with EVs, assuming they use the most resource-frugal next-generation batteries, we would need the following materials: about twice the annual global production of cobalt three quarters of the world’s production lithium carbonate nearly the entire world production of neodymium and more than half the world’s production of copper in 2018.

And this is just for the UK. Professor Kelly estimates that if we want the whole world to be transported by electric vehicles, the vast increases in the supply of the raw materials listed above would go far beyond known reserves. The environmental and social impact of vastly-expanded mining for these materials — some of which are highly toxic when mined, transported and processed – in countries afflicted by corruption and poor human rights records can only be imagined. The clean and green image of EVs stands in stark contrast to the realities of manufacturing batteries.

Zero Emissions and All That

Proponents of EVs might counter by saying that despite these evident environmental and social problems associated with mining in many third world countries, the case remains that EVs help reduce carbon dioxide emissions associated with the internal combustion engines run on gasoline and diesel fuels. According to the reigning climate change narrative, it is after all carbon dioxide emissions that are threatening environmental catastrophe on a global scale. For the sake of saving the world, the climate crusaders of the richer nations might be willing to ignore the local pollution and human rights violations involved in mining for minerals and rare earths in Africa, China, Latin America and elsewhere.

While one might question the inherent inequity in imposing such a trade-off, the supposed advantages of EVs in emitting lower carbon emissions are overstated according to a peer-reviewed life-cycle study comparing conventional and electric vehicles. To begin with, about half the lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions from an electric car come from the energy used to produce the car, especially in the mining and processing of raw materials needed for the battery. This compares unfavorably with the manufacture of a gasoline-powered car which accounts for 17% of the car’s lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions. When a new EV appears in the show-room, it has already caused 30,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide emission. The equivalent amount for manufacturing a conventional car is 14,000 pounds.

Once on the road, the carbon dioxide emissions of EVs depends on the power-generation fuel used to recharge its battery. If it comes mostly from coal-fired power plants, it will lead to about 15 ounces of carbon-dioxide for every mile it is driven—three ounces more than a similar gasoline-powered car. Even without reference to the source of electricity used for battery charging, if an EV is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the EV will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles. Even if the EV is driven for 90,000 miles and the battery is charged by cleaner natural-gas fueled power stations, it will cause just 24% less carbon-dioxide emission than a gasoline-powered car. As the skeptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg puts it, “This is a far cry from ‘zero emissions’".

As most ordinary people mindful of keeping within modest budgets choose affordable gasoline or diesel-powered cars, experts and policy advisors the world over have felt compelled to tilt the playing field in favor of EVs. EV subsidies are regressive: given their high upfront cost, EVs are only affordable for high-income households. It is egregious that EV subsides are funded by the average tax-payer so that the rich can buy their EVs at subsidized prices.

The determination not to know or to look away when the facts assail our beliefs is an enduring frailty of human nature. The tendency towards group think and confirmation bias, and the will to affirm the “scientific consensus” and marginalize sceptics, are rife in considerations by the so-called experts committed to advocating their favorite cause. In the case of EVs, the dirty secrets of “clean energy” should seem apparent to all but, alas, there are none so blind as those who will not see.


Resource Rich, Cash Poor

Photo by Walter Astrada/AFP/Getty Images.

New discoveries of natural resources in several African countries—including Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique—raise an important question: Will these windfalls be a blessing that brings prosperity and hope, or a political and economic curse, as has been the case in so many countries?

On average, resource-rich countries have done even more poorly than countries without resources. They have grown more slowly and with greater inequality—just the opposite of what one would expect. After all, taxing natural resources at high rates will not cause them to disappear, which means that countries whose major source of revenue is natural resources can use them to finance education, health care, development, and redistribution.

A large literature in economics and political science has developed to explain this “resource curse,” and civil-society groups (such as Revenue Watch and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) have been established to try to counter it. Three of the curse’s economic ingredients are well known:

  • Volatile resource prices cause growth to be unstable, aided by international banks that rush in when commodity prices are high and rush out in the downturns (reflecting the time-honored principle that bankers lend only to those who do not need their money).

Moreover, resource-rich countries often do not pursue sustainable growth strategies. They fail to recognize that if they do not reinvest their resource wealth into productive investments above ground, they are actually becoming poorer. Political dysfunction exacerbates the problem, as conflict over access to resource rents gives rise to corrupt and undemocratic governments.

There are well known antidotes to each of these problems: a low exchange rate, a stabilization fund, careful investment of resource revenues (including in the country’s people), a ban on borrowing, and transparency (so citizens can at least see the money coming in and going out). But there is a growing consensus that these measures, while necessary, are insufficient. Newly enriched countries need to take several more steps in order to increase the likelihood of a “resource blessing.”

First, these countries must do more to ensure that their citizens get the full value of the resources. There is an unavoidable conflict of interest between (usually foreign) natural-resource companies and host countries: The former want to minimize what they pay, while the latter need to maximize it. Well-designed, competitive, transparent auctions can generate much more revenue than sweetheart deals. Contracts, too, should be transparent, and should ensure that if prices soar—as they have repeatedly—the windfall gain does not go only to the company.

Unfortunately, many countries have already signed bad contracts that give a disproportionate share of the resources’ value to private foreign companies. But there is a simple answer: renegotiate if that is impossible, impose a windfall-profit tax.

All over the world, countries have been doing this. Of course, natural-resource companies will push back, emphasize the sanctity of contracts, and threaten to leave. But the outcome is typically otherwise. A fair renegotiation can be the basis of a better long-term relationship.

Botswana’s renegotiations of such contracts laid the foundations of its remarkable growth for the last four decades. Moreover, it is not only developing countries, such as Bolivia and Venezuela, that renegotiate developed countries like Israel and Australia have done so as well. Even the United States has imposed a windfall-profits tax.

Equally important, the money gained through natural resources must be used to promote development. The old colonial powers regarded Africa simply as a place from which to extract resources. Some of the new purchasers have a similar attitude.

Infrastructure (roads, railroads, and ports) has been built with one goal in mind: getting the resources out of the country at as low a price as possible, with no effort to process the resources in the country, let alone to develop local industries based on them.

Real development requires exploring all possible linkages: training local workers, developing small and medium-size enterprises to provide inputs for mining operations and oil and gas companies, domestic processing, and integrating the natural resources into the country’s economic structure. Of course, today, these countries may not have a comparative advantage in many of these activities, and some will argue that countries should stick to their strengths. From this perspective, these countries’ comparative advantage is having other countries exploit their resources.

That is wrong. What matters is dynamic comparative advantage, or comparative advantage in the long run, which can be shaped. Forty years ago, South Korea had a comparative advantage in growing rice. Had it stuck to that strength, it would not be the industrial giant that it is today. It might be the world’s most efficient rice grower, but it would still be poor.

Companies will tell Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique to act quickly, but there is good reason for them to move more deliberately. The resources will not disappear, and commodity prices have been rising. In the meantime, these countries can put in place the institutions, policies, and laws needed to ensure that the resources benefit all of their citizens.

Resources should be a blessing, not a curse. They can be, but it will not happen on its own. And it will not happen easily.

This article was originally published by Project Syndicate. For more from Project Syndicate, visit their new Web site, and follow them on Twitter or Facebook.


US sanctions Israeli mining mogul Gertler over Congo deals

An Israeli billionaire was among 13 people around the world sanctioned by the US Thursday for human rights violations and corruption.

The Treasury Department said it was punishing businessman Dan Gertler, who is alleged to have amassed a personal fortune of billions of dollars through corrupt deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gertler is accused of using his personal relationship with Congolese President Joseph Kabila to siphon off cash from the sale of mineral and oil rights. The US said in 2013, he sold rights to an oil field to Kinshasa for $150 million after purchasing it from the government for just $500,000.

“Dan Gertler is an international businessman and billionaire who has amassed his fortune through hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” the Treasury charged in a statement.

“Gertler has used his close friendship with DRC president Joseph Kabila to act as a middleman for mining asset sales in the DRC, requiring some multinational companies to go through Gertler to do business with the Congolese state,” it said.

DRC reportedly lost more than $1.36 billion in revenues in three years as a consequence of underpricing of mining assets sold to offshore companies tied to Gertler, the US alleged.

Earlier this year, Gertler, whose grandfather co-founded the Israel Diamond Exchange and was its longtime president, was named in the Paradise Papers documents as receiving a $45 million loan from Anglo-Swiss firm Glencore to negotiate and secure mining rights in the DRC.

The Paradise Papers confirmed that in 2009 Glencore, the world’s largest mining company, gave the loan to Gertler for his close connections with senior figures in the DRC government, under the condition that it would be repayable if an agreement with the local authorities was not attained. The negotiations were for a mining contract for a company linked to Glencore, the Guardian reported.

Gertler, founder and president of Dan Gertler International, has been active in Congo since 1997, when he started his activities seeking rough diamonds. He has since invested in a variety of fields, including in gold, cobalt, copper and agriculture. Forbes has rated his worth at $1.22 billion, saying he built his fortunes through mining ventures in various African states.

The Treasury Department’s action freezes any assets the people have under US jurisdiction. Americans are banned from doing business with the individuals. It’s unclear whether these people have extensive financial holdings or relationships in the United States. But the blacklist is designed to cause reputational damage that would get banks in Europe, Asia and elsewhere also to cut ties.

“Today, the United States is taking a strong stand against human rights abuse and corruption globally by shutting these bad actors out of the US financial system,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. He said the penalties send a “message that there is a steep price to pay for their misdeeds.”

The penalties are the first batch released under the Magnitsky Global Act, named for Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison after accusing Russian officials of massive tax fraud. It could help answer critics who say Trump has sidelined human rights in US foreign policy and sought closer ties with authoritarian leaders.

Those sanctioned also included a top Myanmar general, Gambia’s former president, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s late dictator, the son of Russia’s prosecutor general, a Serbian arms dealer, a Pakistani transplant specialist, a former Chinese security director and a former Ukrainian police commander.

The sanctions were the first set imposed under a 2016 law, named after a Russian lawyer who died in prison, that empowers the Treasury Department to target officials anywhere for human rights violations and corruption.

Myanmar’s Maung Maung Soe was put on the list for his role in atrocities against Rohingya Muslims. The new sanctions were the most serious US response so far to what it calls “ethnic cleansing” in the western part of the Southeast Asian nation.

Washington progressively eased economic and political sanctions against Myanmar starting in 2012 to reward the country for its shift toward democracy after decades of military rule. Ties expanded further as Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi rose to power.

But the relationship has soured since Myanmar’s crackdown in Rakhine state, which has forced 650,000 people to flee to neighboring Bangladesh and, according to aid group Doctors Without Borders, left thousands dead. Maung Maung Soe was until last month the military commander in Rakhine, and the U.S. said he was responsible for “widespread human rights abuse,” citing credible evidence of mass killings, rapes and villages being burned.

Based on refugee accounts, The Associated Press has reconstructed one such massacre at the village of Maung Nu, where at least 82 Rohingya are believed to have been murdered on August 27.

The action against Maung Maung Soe will put fresh strain on US relations with Myanmar, despite the Trump administration’s assurance that it still seeks to support the nation’s democratic transition and Suu Kyi’s civilian government, which has little control over security affairs controlled by the still-powerful military.

The US has already barred Myanmar military officials involved in the Rakhine operations from U.S. assistance, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that the U.S. is examining other Myanmar individuals for possible sanctions.

Myanmar denies allegations of human rights violations, saying its security forces have not targeted civilians and were responding to attacks by Rohingya militants in August. But it has blocked independent access to the region, including by the United Nations, and impeded delivery of humanitarian aid.

Doctors Without Borders estimates at least 6,700 Rohingya civilians were killed in the first month of the crackdown, and human rights groups have documented three large-scale massacres.

Other individuals punished Thursday include:

—Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s former president. He is alleged to have created an armed squad known as “the Junglers” that terrorized and killed numerous political foes, including religious leaders, journalists and dissidents, while he was in power from 1994 to 2017. Jammeh is also accused of plundering his country’s treasury by stealing at least $50 million in state funds.

—Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the late Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov. She is said to have headed an organized crime syndicate that used government agencies to expropriate businesses, monopolize markets, solicit bribes and run extortion rackets.

—Artem Chaika, son of Russia’s Prosecutor General Yury Chaika. The younger Chaika is accused of using his family connections to unfairly buy state-owned assets and win contracts, as well as harass and interfere with competitors.

—Roberto Jose Rivas Reyes, the president of Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council, who is accused of massive corruption and being responsible for widespread vote fraud.

—Serbian arms dealer Slobodan Tesic, who is accused of being one of the biggest weapons suppliers in the Balkans and bribing officials and politicians in various countries, including Liberia, and violating UN sanctions.

—South Sudanese businessman Benjamin Bol Mel, a former adviser to South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir. His company Thai-South Sudan Construction Company Limited is alleged to have been awarded tens of millions of dollars in no-bid government contracts.

—Pakistani surgeon Mukhtar Hamid Shah, a transplant specialist who is accused of trafficking in human organs by kidnapping and detaining impoverished and illiterate laborers to take their kidneys against their will.

—Dominican businessman Angel Rondon Rijo, who is alleged to have bribed his way into major infrastructure construction contracts, including for highways and dams worth billions of dollars.

—Gao Yan, the former director of the Public Security Bureau in Beijing’s Chaoyang Branch, who is accused of mistreating human rights activists, including Cao Shunli, who died from organ failure in his custody after being denied medical treatment.

—Former Ukrainian police commander Sergey Kusiuk, who headed the elite Berkut unit that is accused of beating, and in some cases killing, peaceful protesters in 2014. Kusiuk fled Ukraine and is now believed to be in Russia.

—Guatemalan politician Julio Antonio Juarez Ramirez, who is accused of ordering an attack in which two journalists, one of whom had reported critically on him, were killed.

—Yankuba Badjie, the former chief of Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency, who is alleged to have overseen the murder of opposition figures.

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