FCA Quarterly Update - Q1 2022

With this blog, we’d like to reflect on the progress our team has made during the first quarter of 2022. Before we go into this, however, we would like to first remember the death of 6 workers at the Kamilombe mine in late January on which we previously reflected in a blog following these tragic events.

Despite this fatal accident serving as a reminder as to why we engage in the sector, the FCA has since been able to accomplish a few notable achievements with the support of our partners. Key of these is the electrification of local schools in our bid to steer children away from mine sites,  support in the creation of saving groups targeting miners, and train more mine workers to become certified safety captains. We have also been able to publish the first FCA annual report for the year 2021 and subsequently grow our membership to 21.

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 the activities the FCA has been able to undertake in the realisation of this goal.

Mine site expansion and legalization support

The FCA has taken steps to start the legalisation process of the Kamilombe site. The local FCA team had meetings with the CMDS cooperative in order to collect their legal documents and work towards ensuring their legal status.

Enabling safe and dignified working conditions

Mine Planning

The FCA engaged a mining engineering consultant related to Johannesburg University as well as industrial FCA partners who compiled a comprehensive study on how the mine site can be improved to mitigate against structural risks underground. The draft report has been submitted to the FCA and will be complemented by a field study in June by the consultant.

First aid training

In addition to 50 safety captains trained in 2021, the second group of 24 Kamilombe mineworkers were trained in first aid training bringing the total to 100 safety captains for the Kamilombe mine site. These safety captains will continue to be trained throughout 2022 on additional OHS topics as well as themes connected to environmental management, and organise bi-weekly health and safety toolbox training, disseminating their attained knowledge to their colleague mine workers throughout the Kamilombe mine site.

The local FCA team and two members of the FCA international team, who were in Kolwezi throughout March, set up meetings with CMDS to discuss the set-up of an OHS committee. This committee will act as a task force with the responsibility to assess problems and incidents, make recommendations and develop management plans regarding safe and dignified working conditions in mines where the FCA is active.

PPE distribution

Working with CMDS and a local women’s association, we have jointly developed a detailed procedure describing the day-to-day management setup of the daily-hire provision of wader boots for personal protection to enable professional and secure execution of the project. Subsequently, we have also supported the identification of suppliers of the boots and facilitated the import of a total of 600+ units. The daily hire fee allows the cooperative and women’s association to maintain and replace the protective equipment in the future.

A committee in charge of the leasing has been created and constitutes 4 members, representing CMDS; the washerwomen; SAEMAPE – the government agency designated to support and enforce responsible ASM; and the FCA team.

Washerwomen work throughout the day in heavily polluted water, causing rashes and illness. Enabling access to protective equipment is an important step towards safe and dignified working conditions.

Registration of mineworkers

With the support of the FCA, CMDS has registered 400 workers and washers with a target to register 2000 in total in the months to come. The photo ID used in registration is a prerequisite for participation in the PPE hiring scheme. This is an important step towards safer working conditions and child labour free mine sites.

Child Labour Remediation

Case manager

The Save the Children consultant for technical and financial capacity building of Maison Kwetu completed the first 2 of 4 sessions of capacity building with the main themes being child’s rights and management of the different project cycles of the remediation system.

School Electrification Programme

After experiencing significant covid-related supply chain challenges, the Signify electrification project aimed to benefit the children in the local community has taken shape in 7 schools selected in collaboration with the provincial Minister of Energy, the Mayor of Kolwezi, and the Division of Education. The schools have so far been able to receive the installation of the first solar panels with the first classrooms equipped with solar-generated electricity and LED lights. 5788 pupils are currently benefiting from this project.

Signify and the FCA collaborate to increase the green electrification of the schools in Kapata and Kasulu neighbourhoods in Kolwezi. Electrifying schools and communal areas increases the safety and extend playing time for children.

Raising worker incomes

Saving groups and financial literacy

The FCA partnered with a local NGO, Association for Action (A.F.A) to execute a programme aimed at raising the financial literacy and resilience of the local mining community. In alignment with local Congolese Authorities, A.F.A set up 14 savings groups reaching as many as 350 mining community members. The groups convene on a weekly basis for the financial management of their joint savings, the social emergency fund, and also to receive training on financial accounting, small-scale entrepreneurship, and alike.

In addition to saving and financial literacy training, the project also granted loans to 63 saving group members, 40 of whom were women and 23 men, for a total amount of 7,490,000 CFA or 3445 USD. The members of the savings groups have received loans to (restart) income-generating activities, to support school fees, the construction of houses as well as other expenses.

With 350 beneficiaries the total amount of savings increases greatly each month. Savings inspire them for possibilities in alternative livelihoods.

Achieving market acceptance of Fair ASM Cobalt

The FCA continued working in partnership with the Responsible Cobalt Initiative in the development of the ASM Cobalt Framework, integrating feedback received during the consultation processes facilitated by RCI and the GBA CAP in summer 2021. A series of harmonization workshops is planned for Q2, with an updated version of the ASM Cobalt framework pending release via www.asm-cobalt.org.

Creating an enabling environment

Next to the workstreams achieving tangible impact on the ground, the FCA also has workstreams dedicated to creating an enabling environment for our programme listed below.

FCA governance & member engagement

FCA published its first annual report, marking an important milestone for the organisation and paying witness to our commitment to transparency and openness about FCA’s work. The report reflects on both the impact of our work on the ground and the finances of 2021.

At the end of this quarter,  FCA’s Operations Manager Jose Diemel will move on to her next challenge. Jose has been instrumental in the establishment of the FCA and engagement with both Congolese and international stakeholders, managing the coordination of our projects on the ground. While we are sad to see her leave, we wish her the best of luck with her next steps.

Forging strategic partnerships & government relations

FCA’s DR Congo team met with La Générale des Carrières et des Mines (Gécamines) external partnership department in Lubumbashi to introduce the FCA, discuss the formalisation of ASM and Gécamines perspective.

Several members of the FCA international team travelled to the DR Congo in late February to engage with (potential) partners and further develop government relations. Together with Sud South, the FCA team visited the Musompo Trading Centre, to further explore collaboration and display how the trading center could contribute to Fair ASM Cobalt.

Our team in Kinshasa met with one of the leading banks in DR Congo to start a conversation concerning a partnership or a membership. The partnership could include the provision of financial training for miners and washers. In terms of international partners the team had a call with the world bank to present the FCA and the projects they have in DR Congo, they could also become members of the FCA.

Outreach, Fundraising & Recruitment

The FCA welcomed three new members: UK-based Safe Supply Ltd, an expert consultancy specialised in commodity supply chains, German e-bike start-up Sushi Bikes and Google. The FCA membership has as a result increased from 21 members.

Relevant Publications

  1. Africa Report | Jan 27 | DRC: Ethically produced batteries need industry-wide collaboration
  2. Regen – Transforming Energy | Jan 25 | Podcast | Storage & Sustainability
  3. Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) | Jan 25 | ASM Cobalt’s role and the green energy transition: championing equitable supply
  4. Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) | March 1 | The fatal toll of artisanal cobalt mining continues. Is responsible ASM even possible?
  5. Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) | March 9 | Reflecting on 2021: FCA’s Official Impact and Financial Report