Industry and Academia Join Forces for Baseline Study on Cobalt Artisanal Mining in DRC

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BERKELEY, CA—JULY 29, 2021—Today, Responsible Sourcing Network, in partnership with the Department of Anthropology of the University of British Columbia, released the Baseline Study of Artisanal and Small-Scale Cobalt Mining in the Republic Democratic of the Congo (DRC). This study, funded through the Responsible Minerals Initiative, is needed and timely given that approximately 70% of the world’s cobalt is located in the DRC.

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The Global Demand For Cobalt Is Growing

Cobalt is a key ingredient in batteries, and its global demand is growing with the rise in electric vehicles and electronic devices. About 20% of Congolese cobalt is mined by artisanal and small-scale miners that frequently experience exploitation, low wages, dangerous mining conditions, and involve child labor.

The baseline study is intended as informational research to orient industry actions in the artisanal cobalt sector. Informed by existing academic, industry, nonprofit, and government publications, as well as a series of interviews, the research describes the current state of the highly competitive cobalt market.

Raphaël Deberdt, the researcher for the study, said he wanted to “explore additional risks not usually discussed such as extreme poverty, as well as specific concerns such as land rights, corruption, health and safety, environmental destruction, child labor, and fraud. All of these risks add up to an industry fraught with abuse and exploitation of Congolese people.”

The Newest Developments In Cobalt Mining

The study reviews current in-country projects as well as discusses the newest developments in the field, including the inception of the Entreprise Générale du Cobalt, a Congolese state-owned company. The baseline study offers a series of recommendations such as expanding local involvement in sustainability projects to ensure their effectiveness and positive impact, and increasing financial support for local projects from corporations that depend on cobalt. The recommendations aim to further transparency and effective risk-management in the cobalt artisanal sector in the DRC.

“I’m proud that Responsible Sourcing Network was supported by the technology sector and contributed to this baseline study,” said Patricia Jurewicz, CEO of Responsible Sourcing Network. “There are many opportunities but also risks in artisanal cobalt mining in the DRC and it is important for corporations to understand if the projects designed to improve the industry are having the intended impact. Companies want the cobalt in their products to contribute to Congolese communities, not harm them.”

About the Responsible Sourcing Network

Responsible Sourcing Network, a non-profit for-benefit organization based in Berkeley, CA, strives to end human rights abuses and forced labor connected to the raw materials found in products we use every day.