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DRC starts up new cobalt body

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s new company with control over small-scale cobalt mining officially launched activities yesterday, to support the commercialisation of responsibly-sourced artisanal cobalt.
DRC starts up new cobalt body DRC starts up new cobalt body DRC starts up new cobalt body DRC starts up new cobalt body DRC starts up new cobalt body

A new chapter begins for artisanal and small-scale cobalt miners in the DRC

Staff reporter

Entreprise Générale du Cobalt (EGC) was set up by the government in November 2019, to purchase all domestically-produced cobalt by the country's artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector.

The DRC produced 94,000 tonnes of cobalt, or 67% of global production, in 2020 and EGC said ASM was responsible for about 20% of this.

Cobalt demand had been projected to double from 145,000t in 2020 to 290,000t by 2030, with the DRC supplying an even larger share of the world's total production, it said.

Its activities will focus on production and marketing and its establishment was expected to boost government revenues and address ethical concerns surrounding the sector.

Amnesty International reports in recent years had put a spotlight on child labour and human rights issues. 

In EGC's responsible sourcing standards, also launched yesterday, it said mining cooperatives "shall not permit anyone under the age of 18 to access the site(s)".

It said these requirements applied to all ASM sites, where individuals would have to carry their site registration ID at all times and tunnelling was forbidden.

Up to 43 illegal miners had died in 2019 after the collapse of two galleries at Glencore's Katanga operations in the DRC. 

 

"As the world transitions to a different, more sustainable energy mix, cobalt represents an opportunity to improve the business climate in the DRC, boost its economic attractiveness, and the fight against poverty," EGC said.

It has struck a trading agreement with Trafigura, which includes financing for the creation of strictly-controlled ASM mining zones, the installation of ore purchasing stations and costs related to the transparent and traceable delivery of cobalt hydroxide.

"All of us engaged in this endeavour are aligned in a firm commitment to collaborate transparently with our stakeholders and to ensure that together we create effective solutions for responsibly sourced cobalt," Trafigura president and CEO Jeremy Weir said.

"Our efforts hinge on continuous improvement in what we all recognise is a challenging context."

Not-for-profit organisaton PACT would also support continuous improvement against the EGC Responsible Sourcing Standard.

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence head of price assessments Caspar Rawles said EGC commencing operations was "another step in the right direction" for DRC's cobalt industry.

He said the key was to work with and formalise the country's artisanal mining sector, not cancel it out of the energy storage revolution.