The world is desperate for cobalt. It drives the proliferation of digital and clean technologies. But this “demon metal” has a horrific present and a troubled history.
The modern search for cobalt has brought investors back to a small town in Northern Canada, a place called Cobalt. Like the demon metal, this town has a dark and turbulent history.
The tale of the early-twentieth-century mining rush at Cobalt has been told as a settler’s adventure, but Indigenous people had already been trading in metals from the region for two thousand years. And the events that happened here — the theft of Indigenous lands, the exploitation of a multicultural workforce, and the destruction of the natural environment — established a template for resource extraction that has been exported around the world.
Charlie Angus reframes the complex and intersectional history of Cobalt within a broader international frame — from the conquistadores to the Western gold rush to the struggles in the Democratic Republic of Congo today. He demonstrates how Cobalt set Canada on its path to become the world’s dominant mining superpower.
Charlie Angus passionately and comprehensively pulls apart the existing narrative about Northern Ontario by exploring the extraordinary history of an overlooked town … In deftly handled prose, Angus details the media manipulation, violence, and government collusion (or ineptitude) that would gradually turn mining corporations into superpowers that spin fictional stories of a ‘nicer’ frontier in Ontario’s north. In actuality, Cobalt suffered municipal dysfunction, disease, xenophobia, murder, and catastrophe, and ushered in an era where the land was transformed into a series of company towns in order to bolster economies in the south and grow a nation.
This immersive history includes a trenchant warning about the unknown costs of the race to a clean energy future.