Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)
We recognise that artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is a source of employment and income generation in many countries, and we support helping legitimate ASM operations to be as responsible as possible.
We recognise cobalt from ASM operations is a reality in the global supply chain and we welcome the efforts by responsible sourcing initiatives and international organisations to improve practices and address the risks of human rights violations.
We are working with stakeholders to address the poverty that is an 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 on hand tools and basic extraction methods, so it often presents significant safety and human rights risks. Another key issue is the risk of child labour in the sector.
Although many ASM activities are considered illegal and use mining methods that pose significant risks to safety and environment, human rights infringements, as well as corruption, 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.
The DRC’s geological cobalt endowment is unrivalled – the country has around half of the world’s known cobalt reserves. Cobalt, in particular, is a metal in rising demand due to its use in batteries for portable electronics, energy storage and electric vehicles.
While the DRC hosts the largest industrial cobalt mines in the world, smaller operations including ASM are also prevalent.
Historically, ASM in the DRC has been associated with significant challenges, such as child labour and illegal intrusions onto active industrial mining sites – including our own – continue to present risks to both our people and communities.
Despite these challenges, ASM is a source of significant employment within the DRC for thousands of people across the country. It is particularly prevalent near our operations, where artisanal miners mine cobalt. Due to the link between child labour and ASM, we support efforts to establish greater transparency in the value chain and undertake third-party assurance of our responsible sourcing approach under the Responsible Minerals Initiative’ Responsible Minerals Assurance Process.
Our approach to ASM: co-existence
Cobalt ASM is particularly prevalent near our industrial, large-scale, mining operations in the DRC. We do not use ASM material in our industrial operations.
ASM continues to coexist in the region, and our focus is on managing the possible challenges that arise from this coexistence. We engage on the issue of ASM with the communities living around our businesses, as well as with the DRC Government, the OECD, civil society and other key stakeholders, including our customers. As part of this engagement, we are further exploring how ASM and large-scale mining can sustainably co-exist as distinct yet complementary sectors of a successful mining industry. We believe that legitimate 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 (FCA), 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.
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 founding member and an active participant in the FCA, which brings together supply chain actors and stakeholders to drive the development of fair cobalt by supporting the professionalisation of ASM site management making mines safer, minimising environmental impact, and creating dignified working conditions for men and women working at the mines.
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.
Addressing the underlying causes 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 an underlying cause of ASM.
Our Kamoto Copper Company S.A. (KCC) operation 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.
We also provide equipment and finance to encourage alternative livelihoods through various organisations, including:
- creating cooperatives to provide goods and services to mining companies in Kolwezi, including Glencore and its contractors;
- training and developing skills such as carpentry, mechanics, building and welding; and
- providing equipment, seeds, fertilisers, and training to farming cooperatives.
We also improve learning conditions for primary and secondary school children, through constructing and renovating schools and providing educational equipment, and run school holiday camps that aim to keep children out of mining activities during school holidays, by providing them with meals and activities.
Principles we follow
businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining