Undergraduate Honors Thesis


The Duality of Natural Resource Extraction and Wellbeing: An analysis of cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of Congo Public Deposited

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    This thesis seeks to contribute to the study of development in natural resource-dependent nations through a case study of cobalt extraction in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This study specifically examines how increasing cobalt extraction in the DRC has impacted the non-economic wellbeing of the Congolese population between 2011 and 2021. The DRC is the world's largest producer of cobalt, a mineral critical to lithium-ion batteries used to power solar panels and electric vehicles that can support the world’s transition away from fossil fuels. As developed countries increasingly rely on natural resources–like cobalt–from developing nations to further their economic and technological pursuits, it is more critical than ever to understand how the people involved in the procurement of such resources are being impacted. Historically, economic indicators like Gross Domestic Product (GDP) have been the primary measure of country progress, although they provide a limited understanding of social welfare. More holistic concepts, such as wellbeing and social progress have been largely absent from development discourse until recent years. This thesis examines the trends in cobalt production and societal wellbeing using the Social Product Index (SPI), a holistic development index that assesses social, environmental, and political indicators of development. Ultimately, this research demonstrates that there is a complicated relationship between booming cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of Congo and impacts to the wellbeing of the Congolese population that cannot be fully explained by isolated economic measures.

Date Awarded
  • 2023-04-10
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Last Modified
  • 2023-04-19
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