Cobalt is not a conflict mineral

The cobalt industry is lining up to make one thing absolutely clear: cobalt is not a conflict mineral

The cobalt industry is lining up to make one thing absolutely clear: cobalt is not a conflict mineral.

New US regulations that seek to clean up the supply chain of minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) do not apply to cobalt.

The vast majority of the world’s cobalt is produced in Katanga province in the southern, copperbelt region of the DRC, along the Zambian border.

The DRC is the size of western Europe. The conflict zones are in the east of the country, a two-hour flight from Katanga. Tin, tantalum and tungsten – extracted from cassiterite, coltan and wolframite – are produced in the eastern provinces, along with gold.

These four minerals, but not cobalt, are affected by the US Dodd-Frank legislation, as well as new ethical stipulations from electronics industry groups the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative.

The view that cobalt may be considered a conflict mineral comes from misinformation and confusion in the market and this must be cleared up, market participants warn.
“It’s very clear – all of the world’s cobalt is conflict-free. Cobalt is not included in the conflict minerals provision of Dodd-Frank,” Jim Cochrane, head of sales and marketing at ENRC, told MB.

It is important for customers to understand the difference, Guy Darby of Darton Commodities said.

“Clarity is the key when discussing cobalt and conflict minerals,” Darby said. “Cobalt is not produced in the area affected by conflict, in the east of the country, but in the peaceful state of Katanga in the south of the country, bordering Zambia, often referred to as the Switzerland of Africa.

“It is therefore important that customers recognise and understand that cobalt is not a conflict mineral,” he added.

The Cobalt Development Institute (CDI) has also been clear about its stance: while it supports greater supply chain transparency, cobalt is not to be confused with conflict minerals.

“The CDI strongly supports international efforts to encourage greater traceability of minerals sourced from such conflict regions as eastern DRC, and in particular to encourage supply-chain transparency for such minerals.”

“It is emphasised that cobalt is not a conflict mineral,” CDI gm David Weight told MB.

Umicore has also received queries from confused customers and welcomes clarification, business development manager Bart Sap told MB.

“The company has often noticed that cobalt is being confused with coltan, a mineral being mined in the conflict-prone eastern DRC. Some customers have even requested non-DRC material for their needs.”

“Therefore Umicore feels that additional clarification on this topic is advisable. Umicore would like to stress that the company has a sustainable procurement charter and that high attention is given to ethical cobalt sourcing,” Sap said.

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