World Day Against Child Labour

Author: Glencore | Date: 11/06/2018

Innovations such as electric vehicles and the lithium-ion batteries inside them are essential for the global transition to a low-carbon economy and are driving a rising demand for cobalt. Indeed, in a study with business intelligence and research company, CRU, we project that by 2030, cobalt demand will increase by 332%, compared to 2017 production.

Since over half the world’s cobalt reserves are in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), these innovations are also helping drive the country’s economic prospects, creating jobs, stability and thriving communities. But this rising demand is also increasing incentives in unregulated mining which tends to rely heavily on child labour. 

This year, World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL) and April's World Day for Safety and Health at Work (SafeDay) have built a joint campaign focused on ending child labour entirely, and improving the safety and health of young workers. As a major natural resources company with operations in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), both are major challenges for us and the broader mining industry. Addressing them lies at the heart of how we operate as a responsible company, with the clear understanding that we do not tolerate any form of child or forced labour in our business, including across the global supply chain. 

We do not believe that small-scale artisanal mining provides a sustainable way towards development, and ultimately does not help lift people out of poverty. 

Keeping children out of labour
We’ve seen increasing incentives for small-scale artisanal mining (ASM) in the DRC. Predominantly mined by hand, ASM tends to rely heavily on women and children in its operations, and the consequences can be far-reaching. Health risks deriving from inhalation of toxic dust, exposure to chemicals, and operations at unsafe sites are clear. More broadly, the children being exploited in these practices lose out on the opportunities to learn, study, and train for the lives and careers stretching out ahead of them.

We do not support ASM, nor do we process or purchase any material derived from ASM in the DRC. We do not believe that ASM provides a sustainable way towards development, and ultimately does not help lift people out of poverty. We have, therefore, developed robust due diligence processes to ensure this material does not enter our supply chain, and are keen to promote fully-transparent supply chains to protect against profits coming from the exploitation of children.

Alongside increased transparency, we’re proud to support a number of initiatives that address the roots of child labour in the region, namely endemic poverty. In partnership with local NGOs and churches, our Katanga and Mutanda copper operations in the DRC support holiday camps for schoolchildren. Between June and August 2017, over 7,200 children participated in a wide range of activities, such as theatre, drawing, and music, as well as discussions on the risks of artisanal mining and the importance of education. 

These holiday camps are run alongside economic diversification projects delivered by local cooperatives. From raising livestock, bee-keeping, and dairy businesses, to welding, carpentry, and catering, the training the local population receives is having a significant impact on local dependency on ASM. This commitment to fostering robust, diversified local economies is one we drive globally, be it dairy and wool sectors in Peru, supporting wildlife management training in Australia, or broad skills training in South Africa. Strong independent local economies are most likely to be able to stand up to the pressures of ASM, and deliver an environment in which children have a right to grow up.


children participated in our summer holiday camps last year in the DRC

Protecting the young in work
The other aspect of this year’s joint campaign was to highlight the importance of health and safety at work, particularly among young people. As a company carrying out dangerous work in challenging situations, we have a duty of care to our workers and staff, whatever their age. It is imperative, however, that our young employees are afforded a working environment where they can grow, develop and mature personally and professionally. Our SafeWork programme is at the core of our approach to maintaining safe working conditions, and we believe we are moving in the right direction. Our young employees receive industry-leading training designed to give them the skills to progress safely and with confidence throughout their career.

Ending all child labour by 2025
Ultimately, our aim is to help end child labour, in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ending all forms of child labour by 2025. Given the current demand, and rising future demand, for cobalt this will take a unified effort, where all parties are committed to ensuring the highest standards throughout the supply chain. By helping to diversify local economies and creating robust local communities, we can provide the tools for societies to protect their children from exploitation. Beyond this, we also aim to support the SDG target of safe and secure working environments for all workers by 2030. We’re committed to creating a safe, secure, and well-supported environment in which our next generation of employees can thrive, ensures a transparent and secure supply of the resources necessary for the global transition to a low carbon economy, and realizing the opportunity for the DRC and its people.