Cobalt mining has been in the news again recently, with investigations into some of the shocking conditions of Cobalt miners in the Congo making headlines. Cobalt is a key material in the production of Lithium-ion batteries, which in turn underpin many of the advances in technology made over the last few years. The supply chain for Lithium-ion batteries is long and complex, with cobalt originating in the Congo passing through other African countries on its way to China to be incorporated into the batteries, before heading on to technology assembly lines.
With Cobalt in the headlines journalists have been quizzing big tech companies on where their Cobalt comes from and not all the answers have been very good. Investigations are required to work out where the Cobalt in consumer devices actually comes from & promises on worker conditions have been made, all costly and time consuming activities.
Supply chain management may not be top of the priority list for start-ups struggling to grow and survive, but not knowing the details of where your materials come from creates a real risk of future embarrassment and brand damage.
But how such serious problems could persist for so long — despite frequent warning signs — illustrates what can happen in hard-to-decipher supply chains when they are mostly unregulated, low price is paramount and the trouble occurs in a distant, tumultuous part of the world.