Transforming artisanal mining in the DRC

Author: Glencore | Date: 11/03/2021


In light of our recent membership of the Fair Cobalt Alliance, we explore the issue of responsible sourcing, what we’re doing about ASM, and what we hope the Fair Cobalt Alliance can achieve.


As a major copper and cobalt miner in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), we have long engaged on the issue of ASM with communities around our businesses, the DRC Government, civil society and other key stakeholders, including our customers.

Following this engagement, last year we revised our approach, further exploring how ASM and large-scale mining (LSM) can sustainably co-exist as distinct yet complimentary sectors of a successful mining industry. Although we do not mine or trade any cobalt from artisanal sources, we believe that legal ASM can play
an important and sustainable role in the DRC economy. However, it must be carried out safely, transparently and without the use of child or forced labour.

We have also joined the Fair Cobalt Alliance (the Alliance). The Alliance’s mission is to positively transform ASM in the DRC and work towards eliminating child and forced labour, as well as other dangerous practices. Through its partners in the DRC, the Alliance aims to tackle long-standing challenges within the ASM sector. Its objectives include achieving a child-labour free Kolwezi, supporting the professionalisation of ASM through the adoption of responsible mining practices, and identifying and supporting alternative livelihoods to help increase incomes and reduce poverty.

We are already committed to working with our local communities and other stakeholders in the DRC to address the endemic poverty in this region that is the underlying cause of ASM. Glencore, through our support of the Alliance, supports legitimate ASM cooperatives in their endeavours to transform their practices and align with international human rights practices, especially in the prevention of child labour.

We are already committed to working with our local communities and other stakeholders in the DRC to address the endemic poverty in this region that is the underlying cause of ASM.  example, former ASM women have created sewing cooperatives as an alternative livelihood activity.


As an industrial mining operation, we do not process, buy or trade ASM material.

Historically, ASM has been associated with significant challenges. High unemployment and subsistence living can push miners into take great risks resulting in child labour and illegal intrusions onto active industrial sites – including our own – continue to present risks to both our people and communities. As a responsible miner, we do not tolerate any form of child or forced labour. Also we do not tolerate illegal intrusions onto mining concessions.

While these challenges exist, ASM is a significant source of employment within the DRC for as many as 2 million people across the country. The DRC’s geological cobalt endowment is unrivalled – the country has around 60% of the world’s known cobalt reserves. This means that while the DRC hosts the largest industrial cobalt mines in the world, smaller operations including ASM can also be economically viable and will continue to exist. 

Although we do not trade ASM sourced cobalt today, we recognise the legitimacy of cobalt from responsible ASM operations in the global supply chain and welcome the efforts by responsible sourcing initiatives and international organisations to improve practices and address risks of human rights violations. In addition to our new partnership with the Alliance, as a member of the Responsible Minerals Initiative and the Global Battery Alliance, we participate in programmes to develop frameworks and standards that support responsible ASM. 

Glencore believes that legal ASM can play an important and sustainable role in the DRC economy when carried out responsibly and transparently; we also believe that alternative livelihood activities to ASM is key for a diversified and sustainable economy for the communities living around our operations.


On the ground, we are committed to operating ethically, responsibly and respecting human rights everywhere we perate. This includes zero tolerance for child labour.

We believe we have a responsibility to collaborate with local stakeholders to help address social challenges in the regions that host our operations.

Our Kamoto Copper Company business (KCC) supports social development through its many local programmes, in particular a series of initiatives designed to fight child labour and develop alternative sources of livelihoods for the community. These include supporting over 162 agricultural co-operatives providing food self-sufficiency and income generation to over 3,500 members and their dependents, and upskilling over 2,000 small business association members who support 12,000 dependants. KCC and Glencore have also improved learning conditions for over 54,000 primary and secondary age school children, and in 2019 ran school holiday camps for 10,000 children. 

As the world calls for more cobalt and copper to power the energy and transport revolutions, the demand for these vital everyday commodities will reinforce the global importance of the DRC. It is crucial that all supply chains, including both cobalt and copper, are sustainable, ethical, and responsible.

As part of Capacity Building for Associations, Glencore, through our support to the Fair Cobalt Alliance, will support legitimate ASM cooperatives in their efforts to transform their practices and align with international human rights practices, in particular in the prevention of child labour.