Our Approach

achieving change through supply-chain wide collaboration

Over the past few years, awareness of the challenges in the Congolese ASM cobalt sector has risen sharply. With NGOs, regulators and international media zooming in on the sectors systemic association with child labour and poor working conditions.

There are many mid- and downstream companies that actively try to disassociate from ASM, sourcing from DRC or even cobalt at large. A few companies and initiatives, however,  pioneer engagement with ASM cobalt communities through projects focussed on addressing the occurrence of child labour within cobalt communities. Looking into what can be done to achieve lasting improvements, we soon realized the scale and complexity of the issues at hand cannot be solved by any one actor operating in isolation. Moreover, we realized that lasting impact requires a holistic approach addressing the underlying root causes: widespread poverty and a lack of support for the ASM sector to formalize and professionalize.

FCA members and our partners are collaborating and pooling resources for the implementation of locally run projects and interventions based on the realization that actors across the supply chain need to join forces to meaningfully contribute to a holistic response to the issues at hand.

We all agree that the current conditions of the ASM cobalt sector are unacceptable, but that doesn’t mean we should turn away. By applying a progressive and inclusive approach to sector development, ASM can become a driver for local economic development that brings changes and new and exciting opportunities to the miners and their communities. Rather than focusing on preventing entire communities from accessing what is currently their main source of livelihood, we want to help see it flourish.

Our Solutions-Focused Approach

By bringing together companies across the cobalt supply chain, international development agencies, local governments, civil society, and local implementing partners, we are seeking to establish ourselves as a touchstone for all who want to participate in the improvement of the ASM sector and their communities. Our goal is to do this transparently, in a way that we can be held accountable. To guide our approach, we focus on 5  objectives.

Our objectives

Improving Mine Sites

To improve workers’ health and safety as well as trade transparency and their terms of payment, we support the provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), worker training, and transparent and fair buying practices at the trading stations (or depots).

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Children’s Rights

The FCA is working with local cooperatives and civil society to build a scalable child labour referral system. Taking a child rights approach, we seek to promote school attendance and vocational training and job opportunities for youth.

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Economic Diversification

We invest in off-site community programmes, designed to create and diversify sustainable livelihoods accessible to all community members. Widespread poverty can only be addressed by fostering entrepreneurship and creating job opportunities in the community – outside the artisanal mining sector.

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Monitoring our Impact

Our goal is to have a measurable impact on the mining communities we engage. To that end, we continuously measure the success of our programmes to ensure that we maximise our reach – and the social return of our investment and grant capital.

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Systemic value chain approach

Any organisation operating as part of — or associated with — the global cobalt supply chain should consider how it might best contribute to a solution. By taking a holistic approach, incorporating every stage of the supply chain, we can identify root causes and construct effective solutions to address the issues upstream.

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Fair cobalt

The FCA is built on the notion of actors across the supply chain taking joint responsibility.

As such, it is important to drive formal acceptance of responsibly produced ‘Fair Cobalt’, which we define as cobalt originating from mines that have committed to continuous, time-bound improvement as stated in our holistic management framework – currently undergoing international consultation www.asm-cobalt.org. In addition, they should already meet minimum expectations of operating legally and in respect of human and children’s rights. Market acceptance should naturally lead to the integration of a fair cobalt supply into global supply chains, aspiring to make sourcing from ASM a cross-industry responsible sourcing goal.

Achieving lasting Change

FCA’s three-pronged approach to driving community development and the professionalization of artisanal mine sites is based on our Theory of Change, first developed during the research that resulted in our report “Digging for Change” download here. By promoting a  holistic approach our programme works towards a growing supply of industry-accepted Fair ASM cobalt, measurably contributing positively to the development of local mining communities.

The London Metal Exchange is encouraged by the work of the Fair Cobalt Alliance as we share the common goal of improving working conditions and livelihoods for Congolese cobalt communities. Bringing cobalt supply chain participants together to coordinate local action is essential for creating lasting change.

Nicole Hanson, LME Responsible Sourcing Manager