Equipped with primitive tools like picks, shovels, buckets, and gold pans, they work mining valuable resources, like gold, diamonds, tin, lithium, rare earth elements, tantalum, and cobalt, and any other usable commodity, for example, sand, coal, or mica. The mining and refining processes are labor intensive and associated with a variety of health problems due to accidents, overheating, overexertion, dust inhalation, exposure to toxic chemicals and gases, violence, and illicit and prescription drug and alcohol addiction.
Approximately 60% of the world's annual supply comes from the DRC including 15–20% from ASM (Kennedy, 2020). What makes ASM feasible for cobalt is its occurrence at shallow depths as the mineral heterogenite (CoOOH) (Banza Lubaba Nkulu et al., 2018). Kara (2018) estimates there are 255,000 diggers at work in DRC mining cobalt, including 35,000 children.
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