Lithium-ion Batteries: How to Improve Due Diligence Guidelines to Ensure the Environmental Health of Artisanal Cobalt Mining Communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Kelsey Galantich
3L/ JD Candidate,
UC Hastings College of the Law,
200 McAllister St. San Francisco CA 94102


Due to the anticipated increase in demand for lithium batteries for Zero Emission Vehicles and renewable energy storage technologies, this paper examines the adverse environmental and health effects of artisanal cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Cobalt is a key metal in the cathode of lithium batteries, and over 60 per cent of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the adverse effects of mining this metal on both the environment and health of populations around the mines, as well as documented human rights abuses, no country legally requires companies using cobalt to publicly report on their cobalt supply chain. To determine where international law falls short of addressing this issue, this paper examines how the OECD and UN due diligence guidelines fail to ensure that the supply chains of companies using cobalt do not perpetuate environmental damage or health problems within its definition of ‘harm to people’. As enforcement mechanisms, this paper addresses ways in which international certification schemes, such as the Kimberly Blood Diamond Certification Scheme, and national legislation, such as the Conflict Minerals section of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act, can assist due diligence standards in ensuring that manufacturing and mining companies reduce environmental pollution and continue developing technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without hurting the health of human beings.


Artisanal mining, cobalt, conflict minerals, Democratic Republic of Congo, due diligence, green technology, human rights, lithium-ion batteries, mining, Zero-emission vehicles.             LEAD Journal - ISSN 1746-5893