Glencore has joined the founding members of the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) to help tackle ethical issues pervading the country’s cobalt supply chain.
The FCA, which is comprised of Fairphone, Signify, Huayou Cobalt and the Impact Facility aims to take on problems such as poor working conditions and child labour in building a responsible source of cobalt from the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector.
The members of the FCA will work with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Government to professionalise ASM mining management, work towards child-labour free mines in Kolwezi, enrol local children into schools and increase household incomes by investing in community programs that are designed to create sustainable livelihoods outside of mining.
ASM is often associated with hazardous working conditions, child labour, as well as limited access to legitimate, transparent markets.
Two-thirds of the global cobalt supply comes from the DRC. While the majority is sourced from large-scale mining operations, it is estimated that 11 per cent of cobalt exported last year came from ASM operations.
The Impact Facility and FCA director Assheton Stewart Carter said that it was the organisation’s duty to take action and make improvements in this space.
“The security of cobalt supply chains is more important than ever as our need for this highly relevant mineral in the new digital economy becomes evident,” Stewart Carter said.
“Where we find environmental, social or labour problems in supply chains, we should not avoid them, we should not disengage, but rather it is our duty to take action and make improvements.
“The Fair Cobalt Alliance is a bold move to do just that, to bring about systematic change by working with the local partners and engaging all businesses in the supply chain to achieve a common goal.”
Cobalt ASM is the source of direct employment for more than 100,000 people across the DRC, with a total of 1.5–2 million artisanal miners spreading across the African nation.
Glencore is the biggest western company operating in the DRC, sourcing half of the world’s cobalt from the country.
The company prohibits child labour at its operations and suppliers and does not support ASM and does not process or purchase any material derived from ASM.
It has also run outreach programs for children in at-risk communities, with over 9000 local children participating in 2018, Glencore encouraging alternatives careers and livelihoods to ASM.