Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)
We believe artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) can co-exist alongside large-scale mining when carried out responsibly and transparently. 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 the risks of human rights violations.
Meanwhile, we are working with stakeholders to address the poverty that is the underlying cause of ASM.
What is artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)?
ASM takes many different forms, from official co-operative associations to small groups of miners illegally operating on mining concessions. ASM is largely informal and un-mechanised; individuals frequently rely one hand tools and basic extraction methods so it often presents significant safety and human rights risks. A key issue is the participation of children in the sector.
Although many ASM activities are considered illegal and use mining methods that pose significant risks to corruption, safety and environment, as well as human rights infringements, ASM can be an important source of employment, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where millions of people depend on it for their livelihoods.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and cobalt
As a major supplier of copper and cobalt, the DRC plays a critical role in helping the world transition to a low-carbon future. Cobalt in particular is a metal in rising demand thanks to its use in batteries, portable electronics, energy storage and electric vehicles. The DRC has a long history of ASM, and around two million people rely on ASM for a living.
The DRC has around 60% of the world’s known cobalt reserves. While the DRC hosts the largest industrial cobalt mines in the world, smaller operations including ASM can also be economically viable.
Historically, ASM has been associated with significant challenges. In particular, child labour and illegal intrusions onto active industrial mining sites – including our own – continue to present risks to both our people and communities.
While these challenges exist, ASM is a source of significant 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 artisanal and ASM can be economically viable.
Glencore’s approach to ASM: co-existence
As a major copper and cobalt miner in the DRC, we have engaged on the issue of artisanal and small-scale mining with communities around our businesses, the DRC Government, the OECD, civil society and other key stakeholders, including our customers. Following this engagement, we are evolving our approach, further exploring how ASM and large-scale mining (LSM) can sustainably co-exist as distinct yet complementary sectors of a successful mining industry. We believe that legal ASM can play an important and sustainable role in the DRC economy when carried out responsibly and transparently.
Glencore, through our support of the Fair Cobalt 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 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 partnership with the FCA and as a member of the Responsible Minerals Initiative, we participate in programmes to develop frameworks and standards that support responsible ASM.
Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA)
Glencore is a member of the FCA. The FCA’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 FCA 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.
Glencore, through our support of the FCA, will support legitimate ASM cooperatives in their endeavours to transform their practices and align with international human rights practices, especially in the prevention of child labour.
Addressing the underlying cause of ASM
We are 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.
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 140 agricultural co-operatives providing food self-sufficiency and income generation to over 4,000 members and their dependants, and upskilling 2,000 small business association members who support 12,000 dependants.
KCC and Glencore have also improved learning conditions for 57,000 school primary and secondary age school children, and in 2019 ran school holiday camps for almost 16,000 children.
We are working hard to tackle the socio-economic root causes that lead to the high prevalence of child labour in Africa.