FCA Quarterly - Q3 2023
In the third 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. The FCA is proud to inform you that our team in the DR Congo has grown. We have now been joined by Maso-Esther Kitwa Mutombo and Anthony Mukaya. Mado-Esther is in charge of Community projects, M&E support and administrative work. She has many years of experience working on community projects in the Haut-Katanga. Anthony is in charge of company logistics.
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.
Mine site expansion and legalisation support
The FCA continues to work in close collaboration with two law firms to find the right legal framework that will enable Kamilombe’s artisanal site’s legal compliance – in accordance with the national law and beneficial to the concession owner, state mining company, Gecamines. A preliminary strategy, in discussion with key stakeholders, has been defined for selected trajectories to be followed to reach a formal status.
Enabling safe and dignified working conditions
In our approach to ensure better and dignified working conditions, the depot workers were provided with masks, gloves and goggles for use in their activities. Depots are generally referred to as locations where ASM cobalt and other minerals are collected, stored, and aggregated before being transported for further processing or sale. ASM cobalt depots are typically informal and often lack the regulatory oversight and safety standards found in larger, industrial mining operations. This informality can pose challenges related to safety and labour conditions.
It was therefore key for the FCA to ensure the full protection and safety of the workers who crush the ore daily. In the quest to ensure a continuous improvement of the safety conditions on-site, outside and inside the pits, the FCA deployed at the Kamilombe mine site lamps and a recharge station for use and testing by the miners.
Operational Health and Safety (OHS)
The OHS committee, composed of FCA, CMDS cooperative, SAEMAPE, and KCC, held its third meeting of the year. The OHS committee is key to overseeing health and safety risks and providing recommendations to improve health and safety on site. The key discussions of the meeting were:
– PPE distribution for depot workers
– Waste management in Kamilombe. KCC to provide bins for mine use.
– Construction of roofing to protect the pits from flooding/ collapse
– Construction of sanitary facilities to improve hygiene on-site
– Community sensitisation on OHS through jingles
As part of the OHS campaign, the FCA together with CMDS ( Coopérative Minière pour le Développement Social) management, was in this quarter able to organise a theatrical show to sensitise ASM workers on health and safety measures at work. The show took place at Kamilombe and around 900 people attended. As a follow-up, to sensitise both the miners and the community, the FCA is working on OHS messages in Swahili that will be televised.
The rainy season is often synonymous with water infiltration, one of the key causes of tunnel degradation and collapses. Improved protection against water is therefore a key priority to reduce OHS risks. To ensure the safety of the creuseurs the FCA has started the roofing of 5 mining pits. As the goal is to ensure the roofing of all pits at the Kamilombe site, this work will be scaled gradually to cover the additional pits.
The safety captains also held a few toolbox training sessions at the Kamilombe site led by six safety captains. The chosen theme was “The Danger of Dust.” The captains began by outlining the various types of dust and the different ways it enters the human body. They then highlighted the health hazards associated with dust and the various illnesses it could cause, such as:
– Asbestosis (from asbestos dust)
– Silicosis (from silica dust)
– Talcosis (from talc dust)
The session occurred in different areas of the Kamilombe site: Kamilombe Red, Kamilombe 2 and Kamilombe 3, reaching over 2000 miners. With the help of these safety captains, over 5,000 miners have received training on different health and safety topics.
Child Labour Remediation
Created in 2022, The Hub continues with its child labour identification and remediation efforts in the Lualaba region. There are currently 19 children receiving care and support under the programme and below are the key updates as of the end of September 2023:
- – Number of children identified – 20
– Number of children that have received remediation plan – 13
– Number of children for whom the remediation plan is being prepared – 7
– Number of children for whom remediation has started – 13
– Number of children who dropped out of the programme – 0
– Number of children who completed the programme – 1
It is important to note that 5 of the new children have been enrolled in school, and have started the school year on the first of September. More information about The Hub is available here.
Raising worker incomes
The saving groups represent a key element in raising the workers and the community’s incomes and help the diversification of revenues. The FCA together with the A.F.A NGO are working with a group of both ASM workers and members of the mining community of Kapata to support them in economic resilience and financial literacy. The saving groups are helping in supporting micro enterprises, school fees allocation for the children in the community, or learning to save for emergencies. From the 21 operational VSLAs, below are the key updates from the last 3 months: From the 21 active Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), below are the key updates from the last 3 months:
- – 22,063,500fc or $8,825.4 in savings funds raised;
– 1,842,000fc or $736.8 in solidarity funds mobilised;
– 98 people had access to credit;
– 35,313,000fc or $14,125.2 in loans granted to AVEC members;
– 18,986,000fc or $7594.4 repaid during the period;
– 120 micro-enterprises identified;
– 447 people took part in savings activities;
– 2 monitoring meetings held by the A.F.A team.
More context about the VSLAs can be found here.
Achieving Market Acceptance of Fair ASM Cobalt
Supply Chain Integration Task Force
The supply chain integration task, consisting of eight members of the FC and created to support the realisation of one of our ambitions to integrate responsible cobalt from the ASM mine sites into the formal supply chain was in August able to celebrate a major success, the launch of the Fair Cobalt Credits at the Fairphone 5 official launch – the latest product from the Dutch electronics company.
The Fair Cobalt Credit system- a book and claim mechanism connecting downstream actors eager to ensure the supply of responsibly produced artisanal minerals, with upstream artisanal producers committed to adopting better practices – allows downstream actors to pay a premium of $5,000 per tonne of cobalt, equivalent to 10% of the commodity’s average price over the past three years, for cobalt produced at the Kamilombe artisanal mine site and sold to a trader or processing site.
The cobalt content and basic chain of custody at the site is monitored and verified by the local team of TIF (The Impact Facility). A credit within this system serves as proof that a certain amount of cobalt has been produced and sold with a certain level of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) performance. The funds generated from the sale of Responsible Mineral Credits (RMCs) are managed by The Impact Facility, the permanent secretariat of the FCA, with a dedicated Fund Allocation Committee (FAC), that includes FCA, CMDS, and the Women Washer’s Association, overseeing the articulation and prioritization of funds for mine development. The four mine-site priority areas are listed here:
– Good governance
– Safe and dignified working conditions
– Environmental protection and,
– Inclusive economic development
Fairphone, one of the co-founders of the FCA, is dedicated to establishing an ethical market for electronics by making an impact across the value chain including at the mining stage, has become a pioneer by being the first to purchase cobalt credits from the scheme that are equivalent to 100% of its cobalt use in its latest product. Through this model, companies can buy credits commensurate to their cobalt use and support continuous improvements that will enable the mine’s compliance with downstream requirements for responsible production, such as those stipulated in the RMI ASM cobalt framework. This means that while physical integration of ASM material remains a long-term ambition, this credit system offers verifiable assurance of good practices and impact on the ground – bridging the gap between artisanal mineral producers and the downstream
The FCA team has started using the adjusted measurement and evaluation framework, whose development was finalised in Q2 of this year, to track progress against our workstreams.
Creating an enabling environment
To achieve a tangible impact on the ground, the FCA also has workstreams dedicated to creating the right environment to ensure the success and uptake of its programme. These are:
FCA governance & member engagement
The FCA has in the last three months developed a 2026 strategy, clearly articulating our 4 core objectives to include a mine site support focus to enable safe and fair ASM production, Child labour remediation and prevention (CLRP) and community economic resilience, with a focus on saving groups and economic diversity. To reach the objectives, value chain participation through an increased and engaged membership will be prioritised, to enable a long-term sustainability of our interventions.
Forging strategic partnerships & government relations
The FCA team was present during both the Katanga Business Meeting (KBM) in Kolwezi and Lubumbashi and at the DRC-Africa Battery Metals Forum in Kinshasa, connecting with industry peers with a similar vision of maximising the potential of the resource wealth in the DR Congo and translating the benefits to local community prosperity. The FCA participated on the main stage during the KBM conference, promoting the work of the FCA and advocating for the role of the ASM Cobalt in the country’s vision of a DRC-made battery.
Outreach, Fundraising & Recruitment
The FCA welcomed a new member, Gore Street Capital, bringing our current membership to 21. Gore Street Capital is an experienced renewable energy and private equity investment manager based in the UK. Find out more on their website linked here.
The Impact Facility team, in collaboration with Trust Merchant Bank (TMB), has in Q3 received confirmation from USAID’s Jet Mineral Challenge for winning a proposal for a project to address corruption in the trade and taxation of the artisanal cobalt mining sector. The project will introduce TMBs Pepele Mobile payment platform to the artisanal cobalt trade. Mining cooperatives and traders will be incentivised to adopt digital payments to access inventory financing that will help reduce their current reliance on commissions from third-party traders. The project is expected to start in 2024. Follow our journey as a Powering a Just Energy Transition Green Minerals Challenge (JET Minerals Challenge) winner by visiting the Countering Transnational Corruption Grand Challenge website.
During the third quarter of the year, the FCA facilitated several significant visits and interactions with our Kolwezi team and at the Kamilombe partner mine site, showcasing our commitment to fostering collaboration and promoting responsible mining practices. In September, the FCA organised its second annual delegation visit to Kolwezi to showcase our mine site support activities. The 4-day delegation visit was composed of FCA members, partners, embassy representatives and national Congolese government members.
To expand the discussion around ASM cobalt, the FCA engages with academia for the exchange of ideas and innovative solutions in the sector. In Q3, the FCA local team hosted visits from four academics; a Master’s thesis student from London, a doctoral candidate from the University of Antwerp and two doctoral candidates from the University of Lubumbashi who visited the site for field research. In line with our international engagement, the Vice-Consul of Belgium, based in Lubumbashi, also honoured us with a visit, affirming the global significance of our work. We also welcomed representatives from Glencore and members of the civil society, fostering dialogue and mutual understanding.
Relevant blogs and publications
Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) | July 3 | 2023 – FCA Quarterly – Q2 2023
Financial Times | July 6 | Artisanal mining: the struggle to clean up a murky industry
[German] Tagesanzeiger | July 28 | Controversial small-scale mines: How does the bloody cobalt get pure?
Washington Post | August 4 | Despite reforms, mining for EV metals in Congo exacts steep cost on workers