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Rare Earth Metal Mining in DR Congo

  • 18 Dec 2019
  • 2 min read

Why in News

The International Rights Advocates (IRA) has filed a lawsuit against US tech giants over the death of child labourers in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • DR Congo produces 60% of the world's supply of cobalt and is the world’s largest producer of the rare metal, which is crucial for making batteries used in mobile phones and electric vehicles.

Rare Earth Minerals

  • Rare earths are a series of chemical elements found in the Earth’s crust.
  • These minerals have unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties and thus used in many modern technologies, including consumer electronics, computers and networks, communications, health care, national defense, etc.
  • They are called 'rare earth' because earlier it was difficult to extract them from their oxides forms technologically.
  • They occur in many minerals but typically in low concentrations to be refined in an economical manner.


  • Cobalt makes up only 0.001% of Earth’s crust.
  • It is similar to iron and nickel in its physical properties.
  • It is found in plants and animals, air, water, soil, rocks.
  • Cobalt is used in many alloys & super alloys to make parts in aircraft engines, gas turbine, high-speed steels, corrosion resistant alloys, cemented carbides.It is also used in magnets and magnetic recording media.
  • The radioactive isotopes, cobalt-60, is used in medical treatment and also to irradiate food.

International Rights Advocates

  • It is a non governmental organisation that promotes human rights and corporate accountability through legal advocacy and capacity building.

Source: TH

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