European makers of smartphones, LEDs and electric cars have formed an alliance to improve conditions in cobalt mines and communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The founding members of the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) include Dutch phone maker Fairphone, Philips LED lighting spinoff Signify, German EV Sono Motors and miners Huayou Cobalt and Glencore. They have been joined by the Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI) and German powerbank hirer Lifesaver.
The FCA is set up to work with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government and civil society partners to tackle problems in the cobalt supply chain linked to artisanal and small scale mining (ASM), such as poor working conditions and child labour, and build a source of responsible cobalt.
The Alliance aims to work towards child-labour free mines by supporting operators in establishing credible control and monitoring mechanisms to keep children out of the mines and support the enrolment of children into school, allowing children and youth access to education and vocational training.
Cobalt is a key mineral in battery production and the DRC has the largest reserves and mines in the world, although there is also significant production in Russia, Australia and the Philippines. Around 70 percent of production in the DRC is from large mines, but around 11 percent comes from smaller artisanal and small scale mining (ASM).
Battery makers, particularly for electric vehicles, are also working on low-cobalt and zero cobalt cells. Earlier this year a report form the United Nations highlighted the risks of cobalt production for global electronics, and companies such as BMW have been working to ensure a fair supply chain.
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