Assheton Stewart Carter PhDView Profile
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Assheton Stewart Carter PhD:
Reflecting on 2021: FCA’s Official Impact and Financial Report
As the demand for cobalt rises and our reliance on it becomes more evident, the need to ensure markets have access to reliable and responsible sources strengthens. The goal of the FCA is for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to be known as one such responsible source. For that to happen, for consumers, companies, and civil society to have confidence that their participation in the supply chain is a force for good, benefits from extracting this versatile material need to demonstrably flow to the communities where it came from; no community is more in need of support than those involved in artisanal and small-scale mining.
Unearthing cobalt ore using rudimentary equipment in the southern provinces of the DRC is not a passing phenomenon, but an activity deeply entrenched in the development path of the region. Its potential as a driver of community development is astounding. To grasp this promise, the mining operations need to be professionalised; children tempted or driven to work in the pits and piles at the mining sites supported to enter back into education and vocational training, and choices of alternative livelihoods expanded. This is what the FCA has set out to do.
Like many across our global economy, this last year has been besieged with unforeseen setbacks that have been difficult to prepare for and respond to quickly. In the DRC, the spread of COVID 19, changes in national and provincial governments, and lack of clarity about policies and regulations affecting the small-mining sector have challenged some of the plans and hoped-for progress of our nascent Alliance, first launched in August 2020. We have adapted, however, and made firm advances, nonetheless.
In 2021, strong roots for the FCA were planted in Lualaba and Kinshasa. From our offices we have been able to build further and maintain relations with national and provincial governments. Trusted partnerships have been created with international and local development and technical assistance organisations. Building partnerships takes time, care and thoughtfulness, but now established, we are confident that our foundations will enable us to roll out FCA programmes fully in the coming year.
And many of these projects have launched in 2021, despite the drawbacks. One such example is our programme for supporting legal recognition of operations, emergency and health and safety training at mines, with preparation for continuous improvement plans to comply with international expectations. Here we’re developing a child-labour case management system to remediate cases of child labour identified on site. We also launched our partnership with the Signify Foundation to install solar panels and lighting at schools and give children the opportunity to study in ‘solar libraries’.
The real potential of ASM cobalt to be a driver for development is with the recognition of its critical role in the global supply of such an essential material. Market acceptance of cobalt from artisanal and small mines in the DRC is critical to complete a responsible sourcing system, and the FCA has driven the creation of a best operating practice framework for mines, in close collaboration with the Responsible Minerals Initiative and the Responsible Cobalt Initiative and the support of the Global Battery Alliance’s Cobalt Action Partnership. This work will continue into 2022, extending closer consultation with stakeholders in the DRC and updating our joint site at www.asm-cobalt.org.
This has all been made possible through the FCA’s strengthened organisation. The FCA was established as a multi-stakeholder organisation, acknowledging that to enable improvements for the greater benefit of many, the course of the initiative must be shaped by the voices of those who may be affected by its actions. In 2021, the FCA has grown its membership to 18 organisations representing not-for-profit social mission groups internationally as well as with boots on the ground, and companies representing the breadth of the cobalt value chain. We believe that cross-sector and pre-competitive collaboration is the only way to tackle common problems that no one company, charity, government agency, or even an entire sector, can address alone. In 2022, we hope to grow further by welcoming new members, and are looking forward to the launch of the FCA’s advisory committee.
2021 began slowly but has ended strongly and optimistically. We have put down firm roots in the communities which we are committed to support and launched programmes to advance our pragmatic development goals. We begin 2022 guided by a strategic plan for the three years ahead, approved by the FCA Steering Committee. We know that we will likely encounter hurdles, but are assured that we have the local strength, resilient partnerships, and membership support to leap them. We hope you enjoy reading the following pages describing our activities and accomplishments in a challenging year, and that you will continue to follow and join us in our work to build a responsible artisanal and small-scale cobalt mining sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.