Behind every clean electric car there is cobalt. And behind cobalt is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Cobalt is a critical element in lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars. Such batteries already consume 42% of the metal, and demand will soar as the world switches from petrol and diesel cars to electric ones. This week, the UK followed France in declaring a ban on such vehicles from 2040. Soon, almost anyone in the rich world will be able to drive safe in the knowledge that they’re being kinder and gentler to the planet. Did I mention the DRC? Sixty per cent of the world’s cobalt comes from this central African country the size of western Europe with gargantuan problems to match. Some industry analysts are predicting a 30-fold increase in cobalt demand by 2030, much of which will come from the DRC. Cobalt prices doubled in the past year alone. You might imagine the average Congolese would be thrilled by the prospect of the coming bonanza. But if history is any guide, t...

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