FCA Quarterly - Q1 2023

In the first quarter of 2023, the FCA continued to make progress in its efforts to support the transformation of the artisanal cobalt sector in the DR Congo. A few changes were made in our Kolwezi office. The FCA has welcomed a new country director after the departure of Steve Brewster. Antoine Kasongo (pictured below) has extensive experience managing development and humanitarian projects in Africa and mainly in the DRC. The FCA is keen to welcome Antoine to the DRC/ Kolwezi team! Antoine is based in Kolwezi, where he will lead our staff’s on-the-ground activities.

Achieving tangible impact in artisanal cobalt mining communities

The Fair Cobalt Alliance’s strategic approach to achieving its objectives and tangible impact in artisanal cobalt mining communities comprises five different workstreams geared towards improving the ground conditions of artisanal miners. In this section, we highlight our team’s activities in realising our goals, separated into these five workstreams geared towards improving the ground conditions of artisanal miners.

Mine site expansion and legalization support


To be aligned with the law and bring support to our partner CMDS after the signing of the MOU in 2022, the FCA is currently working toward the legalisation of the Kamilombe mine site. To achieve this, the FCA has onboarded the support of two law firms that have historically worked  with different cobalt companies in Katanga and Lualaba and have extensive experience working with ASM cooperatives to achieve legal status in the Eastern part of the DRC. The first steps of the legalisation included a mapping of the different legalisation strategies based on the review of the current status of the cooperative and a discussion with provincial and national stakeholders to be aligned with the steps that have previously been taken. The next step will include a discussion with the permit owner and ensuring the engagement of other key actors.  

Enabling safe and dignified working conditions

PPE distribution
At the beginning of 2022, the FCA launched the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) distribution project in partnership with the Women Washers Association and the CMDS mining cooperative at the Kamilombe mine site. For sanitary purposes, it was decided that women would have access to individual wader boots that they could rent daily or purchase at a lower price. So far, 97 women have decided to purchase their wader boots. The FCA team is working closely with the Women Washers Association to ensure that the new rental system put in place is working and effectively implemented.

As of 2023, the FCA has been testing out rechargeable lamps to be given to the miners working in the pits. The lights are meant to facilitate their work and allow them to be more secure when working underground and, at the same time, reduce the need for disposable batteries. 4 different kinds of lamps have been bought, varying in brightness, battery life, mode of mounting, durability and price point. The next step will be to pilot these with miners working underground to understand their preferences. Once a suitable model has been identified, the FCA plans to design and operationalise a rental system in line with the PPE provision targeting washers on the mine site.

Mineral washers – commonly known as lavages – put on wader boots (PPE) before the start of their day. To increase the purity of the ore, many artisanal sites ‘wash’ the minerals before they are sold to mineral buying depots on-site or in the region. The task of washing is predominantly executed by women exposed to the heavy metal concentrated water that commonly causes infections and can lead to health complications.

Operational Health & Safety (OHS)
The OHS committee, which is composed of FCA, CMDS cooperative, SAEMAPE, and KCC, held its first meeting at Kamilombe this year to continue implementing safe mine procedures. This meeting led to the selection of a couple of short-term projects:

-The set up of a team by the cooperative to sensitise traders on food hygiene.

-The construction of additional toilets and changing rooms for women in Kamilombe.

-The cleaning of the Kamilombe site by the cooperative’s sanitation team and placing 200 waste bins in drums for the management of waste.

These short-term actions were selected as they could be immediately implemented. The rollout of toolbox training to miners continued as well. More than 2000 miners were trained in this quarter.

Child labour remediation

The FCA and its partners take a child’s right-centric approach, committing to support the children identified working at mine sites until they reach the age of 16, regardless of their age at the point of identification. This ensures that they benefit from the necessary psychosocial, health, and educational support and alternative care where necessary.

The FCA has hired a consultant to support the work being done by the Save the Children team and to support the set-up of the Hub. As part of the programme, there are now 3 cases in remediation, and 17 additional children have been identified and are currently in evaluation to be onboarded in Q2. The registration and fundraising efforts for The Hub are also ongoing. Additional information about The Hub is available here.

Raising worker incomes

Saving groups
After its great success in 2022, the Saving Groups programme continues with the local organisation Alternatives for Actions (A.F.A). The programme was further evaluated in Q1 2023, and a follow-up programme was designed. In addition to the 14 groups, the FCA has signed a contract of USD 50 000 to add 10 additional groups and continue guiding the 14 existing groups.

Up to the end of April 2023, 197 savings meetings were organised for the 14 existing groups, and $17,545.5 of savings funds mobilised. One additional Voluntary Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) was set up with 20 members, including 7 men. Over the next quarter, the additional 9 saving groups will be developed.

Achieving market acceptance of Fair ASM Cobalt

Supply Chain Integration task force
The FCA launched a supply chain integration task force in January 2023 – Co-chaired by a representative of Fairphone, one of the founding members of the FCA – in collaboration with the Secretariat. The task force members work towards advancing the integration of ASM cobalt into the formal supply chain. The projected outcomes include piloting a Fair Cobalt Credit System in August this year – similar to the carbon credits system. The system, still under development, is envisioned to help companies and stakeholders downstream invest in mine site improvement by paying a premium on the cobalt produced at the artisanal mine site. As physical integration will likely be delayed due to the supply chain set-up not being advanced enough for responsible integration, the funds received from the system will be used to improve the ESG and OHS conditions on-site.

M&E Framework
A main focus of 2022 was the development and implementation of an M&E framework. This Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework of the FCA has been developed and finalised in the first quarter of 2023. The framework was developed with the guidance of an external partner, Levin Sources, and several other partners and steering committee members to ensure the framework would capture the key intended results. The M&E framework has subsequently been developed, where possible, into surveys. These data surveys have been first tested into focus groups and afterwards rolled out over the relevant mining community and mine site. The results of this baseline survey are expected in Q2.

Creating an enabling environment

FCA governance & member engagement

On the 12th of January, the FCA had its first FCA messaging workshop to get support from members on developing a core messaging document and an FAQ document in line with the current priorities of the alliance. Part of the discussion also included an update on the Call to Action (CTA), a document that has since been finalised and whose central theme being a request for sector-wide investment in the ASM sector to alleviate the current challenges – pragmatic action by industry, government and civil society to improve the status quo. The CTA will be made public in the coming weeks.

The FCA held its first member meeting on the 14th of March 2023, connecting with members to provide programmatic updates, including an update on the final 2023 budget and the political status of the DR Congo. Some members have also been simultaneously engaged as part of the Communications task force, meeting every six weeks to support the Secretariat in assessing and identifying relevant events and communications opportunities that the FCA would benefit from. Through these meetings, the Secretariat has provided support for the Cobalt institute’s Journalist visit scheduled for the week after the DRC Mining Week in June, a visit intended to contextualise ASM as a valid livelihood source for the communities in the DR Congo and around the world.

The artisanal cobalt mining sector contributes roughly 7-15% of global cobalt production. Cognisant of the harsh working conditions that artisanal miners endure on a daily basis with such optimism, perseverance and resilience, the FCA hopes to contribute to a more nuanced portrayal of the artisanal sector as a crucial livelihood to thousands of people challenging the one-sided over-simplified displays of the sector that dominate current public discourse. Copyright, Olivier Delafoy.

Forging strategic partnerships & government relations

The FCA team was represented at the Mining Indaba event in Cape Town, South Africa, in February – the most significant mining conference in Africa. Participating in panel discussions on the main stage and on the side, the FCA took the opportunity to raise the visibility of our work and connect with key industry stakeholders in the sector. The FCA has also participated in other events organised by Benchmark Minerals and Bloomberg NEF in February in Cape Town. The local DR Congo team participated in an atelier organised by the Ministry of Mines to present the DR Congo government’s five-year plan for the mining sector. This has allowed the FCA to align its objectives with that of the government, specifically concerning the legalisation of ASM mine sites.

Outreach, Fundraising & Recruitment

In February, the FCA published its 2022 Annual Impact and Finance Report. In line with the commitment to transparently report on our progress and finances to all stakeholders, including members of the public, the report details, among other programmatic updates, several case studies detailing the work done by the local team. The case studies featured include the school rehabilitation project sponsored by the London Metal Exchange (LME) through The Impact Facility, the PPE Provision Project benefitting the cobalt washers of Kamilombe, and the status of The Hub under the Child Labour Remediation (CLR) work in partnership with FCA members, Save the Children and The Centre for Child Rights and Business. To find out more, read the report here.

To help expand the current FCA footprint to additional sites and in addition to the interventions planned for scaling at the Kamilombe mine site in 2023, the FCA has updated its fundraising strategy, whose focus is solidifying FCA’s position as a strategic partner in the DR Congo, aligning with government commitments for in-country value addition through local battery manufacturing.

Relevant blogs and publications

  1. Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) | Jan 10 | 2023 – The year of critical minerals
  2. Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) | Feb 15 | Publishing FCA Annual Report
  3. FCA Guest Blog | Mar 7 | Child Labour Remediation Hub for the DRC’s Mining Sector
  4. Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) | Mar 15 | VSLAs – building peer-to-peer networks to strengthen financial resilience
  5. Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) | Mar 22 | Establishing fair trading practices at artisanal cobalt mine sites
  6. FCA Guest Blog | Mar 24 | How to provide access to healthcare to artisanal cobalt miners in the DR Congo