A documentary made by a team from the University of Bath has been shortlisted for a national film and TV award.

‘Cobalt Rush’, from Professor Roy Maconachie, filmmaker Simon Wharf, and Dr Bossissi Nkuba (Centre for Expertise on Mining Governance, Catholic University of Bukavu), highlights the challenges faced by cobalt miners working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In 2021, DRC produced approximately 74% of the world’s cobalt with southern Congo sitting atop an estimated 3.4 million metric tons: almost half the world’s known supply. Cobalt compounds are used in the electrodes for lithium-ion-based batteries, demand for which has soared over recent years given the increase in popularity for electric vehicles.

Against this backdrop, the film tells the story of Cobalt from the perspective of those artisanal miners at the bottom of the supply chain. Shot on location in Lualaba and Haut-Katanga Provinces in the DRC, it sheds light on the gruelling conditions that artisanal operators must endure, while at the same time exploring universal themes of ambition, hope and the obligation to make ends meet. Ultimately, our own complicated relationship with 'green' technologies is revealed, as the film exposes the invisible side of the global rush for Cobalt.

‘Cobalt Rush’ builds on previous projects from Maconachie and Wharf , including ‘Voices from the Mine’ – which focused on artisanal diamond industry supply chains - and ‘Gender and Fairtrade’ – which looked at conditions for female cocoa farmers in Ghana.

It has been shortlisted by the British Universities Film and Video Council for a Learning on Screen Award, under the 'Best Educational Film (in-house production)' category. The award ceremony takes place at the British Film Institute in London on Thursday 4 May 2023.

Commenting on the shortlisting, Professor Maconachie from the University's Department of Social & Policy Sciences and Centre for Development Studies said: “We are thrilled to be nominated for the award. It’s been wonderful to work with Simon and Bossissi on this project, and a great privilege to be able to tell the complex, globally-reaching stories of those working at the bottom of the cobalt supply chain in the DRC.

"Perhaps like no other medium, film has an unrivalled ability to amplify the voices of those in marginalised communities, to allow them to share their life stories on a much wider stage. We are delighted that our film is already receiving recognition.”

Simon Wharf, from the University’s Audio Visual Unit added: “It’s very exciting to be nominated for this award. This was a wonderful project to be part of and such an important and timely story to tell."

Further publicity and a launch event for the film is currently being planned for later in 2023.