Glencore, Huayou create body to ‘professionalize’ artisanal mining

Cobalt producers Huayou and Glencore are founding members of a new body aiming to develop artisanal and small-scale miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The objectives of the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) include supporting the professionalization of site management and instilling best practice across the artisanal mining sector to develop health and safety, and minimize the environmental harm caused by producing cobalt.

The alliance will also focus on working toward childfree labor in mines and the wider community.

“Responsible industrial and artisanal mining both play a critical role in the DRC’s economy, as well as providing consumers with the battery minerals needed to power a greener economy,” David Brocas, head of cobalt marketing and trading at Glencore, said.

“The FCA is a vehicle for businesses all along the supply chain to collaborate with the DRC government and civil society to transform the artisanal mining sector into a source of fair, safe and responsibly mined cobalt,” Brocas added.

Assured supply of responsibly sourced cobalt units has long been an issue for companies in the supply chain.

Multinational companies, such as automotive manufacturers, have joined the cobalt supply chain while vehicle electrification continues to grow and this has placed a spotlight on the mining of cobalt in the DRC, a major source of the mined material.

This scrutiny has resulted in some consumers looking to source cobalt from mines outside of the DRC so that their respective supply chains are transparent and to avoid potentially unethical or environmentally harmful practices.

Fastmarkets’ benchmark price for cobalt standard grade, in-whs Rotterdam stood at $15.25-15.50 per lb in the latest daily assessment on Monday August 24.

The price is unchanged from the previous day but has risen from $13.75-14.15 per lb on July 30.

The price rally has been driven by trader buying and some consumers switching to metal instead of cobalt hydroxide as a feedstock in cobalt sulfate production.

More than half of the global supply of cobalt comes from the DRC, with Glencore estimating that in 2019 bout 11% of exported cobalt from the DRC was from artisanal mines.

This proportion was as high as 20% in 2018 when prices hit multi-year highs of up to $44 per lb, a level not seen since 2008.

Fairphone, Signify and Sono Motors are also among the founding members of the FCA.

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