Cobalt in the Congo? Where have you been, New York Times?

You know I love you, New York Times, but I had to wonder after reading yesterday’s front page, five-column story “Power Struggle Over Cobalt Rattles Clean Energy Revolution” where have you been all these years? The coverage is great, but what took you so long? While you’re pointing fingers at American officials, diplomats and politicians for letting American mining giant Freeport Mc-RoRan sell its interests in two giant Congo cobalt fields to China Molydenum, one has to ask: where was your outrage five years ago?

Too late now!

OOPSSS!! There goes 70% of the world’s supply of cobalt, so essential to cell phones and electric car batteries! What to do? The latest alternative? A battery based on lithium. Good idea, except China controls 80% of the world’s lithium supply. Oh dear!

Is the game lost, lost because the US has no global development policy that can match the teeth and vision of China’s Belt and Road initiative? Everybody’s climbing on board for this international plan to glean the best of foreign lands and harvests. What choice for developing countries offered gazillions of dollars of investment?

Be very afraid

What took everybody so long? After Michael Kavanaugh reported on the cobalt rush for the NYTimes in 2015, interest died down. Then up pops “Buried Dreams”, Nicholas Niarchos’ in-depth chronicle of local impact and the plight of artisanal miners in the May 31, 2021 issue of The New Yorker. And now everybody’s on it.

Buried Dreams: Homeowners in Kolwezi dig through their floors in search of precious cobalt

How can a region that’s been so vital to international interests since supplying the uranium for the Manhattan Project, so rich with mineral resources, fall so far out of public interest? How can American interests in this area of the world fall so flat after years of keeping our hands in the pie? Better late than never. “How the US Lost Ground to China in the Contest for Clean Energy” can tell you why. Thanks, New York Times.

It’s about time!

P.S. Why am I so passionate about this region of the world? For two reasons. First, part of my work in Zambia so many years ago was developing local community-based initiatives for protecting local land rights from international mine grabs. You can imagine how successful that was!

And my second reason! The big reveal: Malinga Mutende, ace crime investigator, has been busy helping local chiefs in the region fight the Big Evil. My fifth novel in the Zambian super-woman detective series will hit the streets early next year. I, for one, cannot wait the arrival of The Cobalt Dragon. Like the rest of the series, Elephant Murders and Radical Peel, you can access it on Amazon as soon as it’s released.

Fantasy world’s most famous dragons: Winter is Coming!

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