A worker at a copper and cobalt mine near Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Cobalt is a byproduct of copper mining, and global demand for copper still drives much of the world's cobalt production.
For parents in much of the world, the beginning of December is a harbinger for the scramble to secure the year's hottest game or electronic gadget ahead of the holidays. And as battery technology continues to improve and costs decline, it has touched off another scramble of its own, as the manufacturers of batteries for everything from smartphones to electric vehicles chase after raw materials like cobalt, an invaluable component in such objects. Right at the center of this frenzy is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which holds roughly 50 percent of the world's cobalt reserves. But with President Joseph Kabila and his government looking to grab a greater share of mineral revenue while avoiding any additional international pressure that could threaten Kabila's hold on power, Kinshasa and international mining companies might soon find themselves on a collision course....
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