Chinese in Beijing Run Cobalt Mines in Africa via Modern Technologies

Chinese company operators can keep tabs on cobalt mining operations in real-time using their smartphones or laptops back home, as claimed by engineers in the firm. 

According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), cutting-edge information technology helps China ensure cobalt supply. This element is a key material for the electric vehicle sector that enhances lithium-ion batteries’ energy storage density, life cycle, and safety.

70% of the world’s cobalt is produced in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Based on the estimates, Chinese businesses possess 80% of the DRC’s cobalt mines.

Modern Tech

China has instant access to operating data from practically all the equipment in these distant mines owing to sensing devices and high-speed communication technologies. 

A supervisor in Beijing may check the location, speed, and cargo of each vehicle using a smartphone.

In SCMP’s report, senior engineer Cui Bing at North Mining said in a paper published last month in the journal Mining Technology that the system “streams live video feeds collected by cameras at critical locations back to headquarters.” The management in Beijing could give instructions to local executives according to what occurred on-site.

China is the world’s top arms exporter and has one of the most significant cobalt mining investments.

Cui and his colleagues have kept “distance-free” communication with their abroad miners.

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Gathered Data

Previously, the African miners’ information system was isolated from Chinese headquarters. 

Cui’s team says most data was gathered and processed locally before being forwarded to Beijing. “Each mine operates like an isolated island,” they wrote in the report.

Cobalt mines use ore excavators and automated devices for selection and processing. 

Chinese engineers put 1,000 data collecting stations in each DRC mine. These terminals report to Beijing every 10 seconds.

Engineers remarked, “The data only makes a one-stop journey.” Local staff are not authorized to manipulate raw production data, and tampering with monitoring equipment would trigger an alarm in Beijing, they added.

Researchers stated that the real-time monitoring technology enhanced mine production and improved job efficiency.

According to the US Geological Survey, DRC’s cobalt production rose 20% last year to more than 120,000 tonnes.

Cobalt Usage

Over the last decade, China has mostly acquired mining licenses in the DRC from Western firms.

With the improvement of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Kinshasa, China has replaced Finland and Zambia as the DRC’s only importers of cobalt.

The reliance on minerals from the Congo has prompted some Chinese battery manufacturers to begin mass manufacturing cobalt-free cells.

However, this year, cobalt-free alternatives such as lithium iron phosphate batteries have outperformed those utilizing cobalt in market share in China, the country with the most electric vehicles globally.

The efficiency of cobalt-free batteries has risen dramatically due to recent technological developments, such as BYD’s blade battery pack.

For instance, the BYD Seal electric car, which is powered by a lithium iron phosphate battery, has an electric range of up to 700 km (435 miles), surpassing the 675 km (420 miles) of the Tesla Model 3, which is powered by a cobalt lithium battery.

See Also: Tesla Production in China Hits Record 100K EVs but Stock Slumped After News of a Potential 20% Drop in Output for December

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