09 December 2021

Fair Cobalt Alliance: “We want to support the DRC cobalt mining sector to become known as a responsible sourcing destination”

Fair Cobalt Alliance Executive Director Assheton Carter discusses the importance of industry collaboration to bring about a step-change in artisanal mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I’m delighted to welcome the Cobalt Institute to the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) this week. Since our foundation in August 2020, we have sought to pool skills from across the cobalt supply chain in order to bring about genuine change for artisanal mining communities.

We want to support the DRC cobalt mining sector to become known as a responsible sourcing destination, acting as a driver for community development and an enabler of the global energy transition.

For some time, artisanal cobalt mining has only ever been characterized negatively – due to mostly poor and dangerous working conditions and its strong association with child labour.

Members of the FCA, which includes automotive players, mining companies and battery manufacturers, as well as NGOs, are united by their belief that change is possible.

So what will it take?

Through collaboration with like-minded organisations such as the Cobalt Institute, we are implementing long-term and holistic programmes designed to enable dignified working conditions and contribute to local economic development.

Our approach is centred around three core objectives: creating dignified working conditions on site, through technical assistance, worker training and investment into safer, more advanced mining practices; enabling child-labour free artisanal mine sites, through developing a child labour referral system that helps identify and respond to child labour cases adequately; and working towards living incomes, therefore addressing the root cause of the problem: widespread poverty.

In practice, this means working within artisanal mining communities, for now focussed on the Lualaba province of DRC. Thanks to the support and investment of our members and partners, we are already implementing a programme focussed on improving health and safety and providing technical support to cooperatives and mine site operators.

To prevent children from working inside artisanal cobalt mines, the FCA works with local cooperatives and civil society to establish effective controls and monitoring mechanisms to identify cases of child labour, and take steps to prevent children from working inside their operations.

Strengthening child rights

Save the Children, in collaboration with The Centre for Child Rights and Business, have recently joined the FCA, and we look forward to working closely to implement practical solutions on the ground. Local ownership and participation are central to both our approaches, and we have already worked together closely alongside partner organisations such as Maison Kwetu, developing a case management system which corresponds to the situations of artisanal mining communities and individual circumstances of children working on mine-sites. With FCA member Signify, we have also invested in a project to install solar panels in schools and community spaces in Kolwezi, providing access to electricity, which as we know is fundamental to improving learning outcomes.

Where do we go from here?

The FCA, with the support of members like the Cobalt Institute, is committed to continuously work towards achieving our objectives of enabling dignified working conditions, remediating child labour and raising community incomes. We know that real change in the artisanal mining sector will not happen overnight, and that collaboration with local and industry partners must be at the heart of that change.

Formalising and professionalising the artisanal mining sector to create fairly sourced cobalt relies on actors from all sectors taking shared responsibility. To achieve our vision of a formal, fair, and safe artisanal mining sector, we call upon actors across the cobalt supply chain to join the FCA.

Find out more about membership in FCA:

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