- More than half the world’s cobalt is mined in the DRC
- Artisanal mining represents an important source of income for impoverished communities
- Companies need to regularly assess their programmes for effectiveness and fit
The demand for cobalt is being driven by the rapid increase in battery-powered devices from smartphones to electric cars. More than half of the world’s cobalt is mined in the DRC. While the majority of cobalt is extracted through large-scale mining (LSM), artisanal-scale mining (ASM) – carried out manually with handheld tools – represents 20-30% of the output.
However, as we explored in a previous article, dangerous working conditions and human rights violations, including child labour, have been highlighted in several NGO reports.1 During 2017-2018 around 600 households were relocated from the town of Kasulo under a process reported by NGOs to be lacking in informed consent and fair compensation.
Visiting the DRC
Companies should also:
- Continue mapping supply chains to identify risks in both ASM and LSM operations and identify how to engage for improvements.
- Conduct comprehensive, risk-based due diligence to assess community impact with a lens to identify differences in vulnerability, eg for women.
- Play an active role in collaborative initiatives that include local partners to formalise ASM operations. Companies should not de-risk by excluding ASM from their supply chains.
Working together, companies can provide pressure and support to improve conditions. Companies need to regularly assess their programmes for effectiveness and fit with evolving local conditions. In a complex and diverse supply chain, companies have an important role to play, no matter how far removed they are from the mining itself.