Her Excellency Antoinette N’Samba Kalambayi, Minister of Mines from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, addressed the audience at Responsible Minerals 2022.
Since 2016, the RMI has been working with its members and stakeholders to increase our understanding of the risks around cobalt, build tools and resources to effectively identify and address human rights abuses in the cobalt supply chain, and collaborate with other stakeholders (including government and NGOs) to take meaningful action.
Responsible sourcing standards have been a core element of the RMI since its founding in 2008. The RMI and its members use these standards to engage suppliers and communicate expectations for responsible business practices that are in line with or in the absence of law. Our program is also based on the principles of continuous improvement, as supported by the OECD, embracing the notion that engagement and progressive improvement over time is preferrable to boycotts that can result in harmful impacts on the most vulnerable members of society. To that end, the RMI’s independent assessment program is deployed alongside supplier outreach and technical assistance.
Given the challenges of artisanal cobalt and necessity of collective active to improve community outcomes and address supply chain risks, the RMI has focused attention and resources in this sector. The RMI’s work has been designed around our expertise in standards and assurance while recognizing the unique and complex artisanal cobalt context:
- In 2018, the RMI co-developed the Cobalt Refiner Due Diligence Standard to engage cobalt refiners and promote independent assessments of due diligence and responsible sourcing practices. With RMI and member support, approximately 50% of known fine refiners and 25% of known crude refiners (treatment units) have agreed to and undertook an assessment since 2019. If an allegation is made against an RMI-audited entity, the RMI opens a grievance inquiry to verify and confirm the timeline of our assessments and evidence of progressive improvements against the allegations.
- In 2020, the RMI set out to develop a standard for ASM cobalt, following the principle of progressive improvement. The approach also requires recognition that artisanal miners lack capital to invest in mine site improvement and safety training and equipment, and they face significant hurdles to secure all licenses to operate formally on viable concessions. In sum, there are limited legal avenues with which to include ASM miners in global supply chains. While charitable contributions to ASM sites and miners that fall short of legal sourcing requirements can be made, an inability to legally source from ASM miners results in abuses all too common in the black market. The artisanal cobalt standard aims to articulate a baseline of safe, formal artisanal production, paired with explicit thresholds at which investment is needed to support progressive improvement. To implement the standard and support a longer-term goal of provide inclusive opportunities to the global market for Congolese citizens, action is also needed to apply leverage, conduct outreach, and work with government, private sector, and civil society counterparts in the DRC to build legal pathways for economic inclusion.
- In 2020-2022, the RMI worked with stakeholders, including but not limited to the Global Battery Alliance (GBA), Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA), the Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI), DRC government representatives and DRC stakeholders to develop a unique standard, the ASM Cobalt Criteria, currently in draft form, which outlines progressive expectations for ASM miners to achieve. At the outset, the expectation is for each site to commit to transparency and continuous improvement. The role of global stakeholders, including downstream buyers, midstream buyers, and civil society is to provide support following the initial site assessments, to facilitate continuous improvement for artisanal miners.
The RMI has been aware of the serious issues that exist around the mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) throughout our work and since the publication of an Amnesty Report in 2016, and appreciates any effort by the stakeholder community to escalate these issues and advocate for improvements to the existing system. The scope of the ASM Cobalt Criteria and the nature of this tool cannot address all the challenges that exist today in the mining industry that have been highlighted in media reports (e.g., contract transparency and inclusive economic development), however several initiatives and international best practices can help address these issues, like the Extractives Industry Transparency Index (EITI), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), etc. Collective action, built on the roles and responsibilities of private sector and state actors articulated in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, is needed to address both supply chain risks and root causes of conditions in the region. While focusing on the RMI’s core work of standards and assessment in supply chains, the RMI looks forward to engaging with Congolese leaders, rightsholders, and stakeholders as well as tripartite international experts committed to taking concrete, constructive steps to enable responsible sourcing of cobalt.
RMI's Work to Date includes:
- Expansion of RMI scope for minerals due diligence to cobalt and other minerals (previously limited to tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold in response to U.S. regulations).
- Development, consultation, and publication of the Cobalt Refiner Due Diligence Standard, which outlines the expectations for cobalt treatment units and refiners in terms of management systems for responsible mineral sourcing (published in 2019, revised in 2021).
- Pilot implementation of the Cobalt Refiner Due Diligence Standard in 2018. The RMI has a public list of smelters and refiners that undergo and are deemed conformant with our standards.
- Creation of a Cobalt Taskforce, Cobalt Workgroup, and Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining “ASM” Workgroup, to educate member companies, conduct outreach to cobalt refiners to ensure refiners are undergoing assessments, and provide opportunities for information sharing.
- Financially covering the cost of initial audits and training for cobalt refiners to improve the understanding of new requirements and ensure refiners are meeting international expectations.
RBA Chief Executive Officer, Rob Lederer, on visit to the DRC
- Multiple trips to the Democratic Republic of the Congo including alongside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and other stakeholders in November 2019 and alongside the U.S. government and members of the Public Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade (PPA) in December 2019.
- Working with the RMI members to fund on-the-ground projects in the DRC, including: collecting risk data and progress on continuous improvement actions at select ASM sites, funding vocational training for at-risk youth as an alternative to working at mine sites, conducting research on the risks related to ASM mining (see RSN’s Baseline Study of the Artisanal and Small-Scale Cobalt Mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and conducting research on gender-security risks in the cobalt-producing regions.
- Working as a sub-grantee on the ILAB Traceability Project for ASM Cobalt.
- Joining the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance Cobalt Action Partnership (GBA CAP) as the Project Management Office for a coalition of actors working to develop a standard (expectations) for ASM cobalt, including an in-country coordinator representing UNICEF, who was based in the DRC to support engagement.
- Establishing a Steering Committee for the GBA CAP that included representatives from the DRC government, Canadian government, U.S. government, OECD, ILO, GIZ, DCAF, ICRC, Pact, Good Shepherd International Foundation, ERG and Glencore.
- Promoting research, learning and transparency through support and amplification and research projects including the IIED and Afrewatch’s Islands of Responsibility report,
- Adopting and further developing the ASM Cobalt Framework, initially provided by the Fair Cobalt Alliance, for the industry-wide standard for ASM cobalt (More information on the CAP consultation website).
- Building relationships with government representatives in the DRC, including the Minister of Mines, and stakeholders through regular outreach and engagement, including with IDAK through the GBA CAP in-country representative.
- Holding a global consultation on the ASM Cobalt Criteria, including in-person consultative meetings in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with stakeholders and publishing the final report transparency to all stakeholders.
- As of 2022, the RMI and the Global Battery Alliance formerly transferred the work around the development of the ASM Cobalt Standard to the RMI.
- The RMI met personally with Her Excellency, the Minister of Mines of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to discuss a path forward for the publication and mutual acceptance of the ASM Cobalt Standard
RBA Meeting with DRC Delegation
On March 8, staff from the RBA and its Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) met with Her Excellency Antoinette N'Samba Kalambayi, Minister of Mines, and her Delegation from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The RBA and RMI appreciated the opportunity to hear from the Minister about priorities for the minerals sector, and to describe the RMI’s history of engagement with the DRC and its practical tools to support the responsible sourcing of minerals. The parties recognized shared goals, including a vision for pathways to socioeconomic benefits for artisanal miners, and look forward to continued engagement on the topic of artisanal cobalt sourcing.
- The RMI partnered with Impact Resources Limited, LLC; working with Congolese staff in the DRC to finalize and begin piloting the ASM Cobalt Criteria at ASM mine sites, in partnership with the technical committee of experts established by the Minister of Mines during her March visit to Washington DC.
- The RMI attended DRC Mining Week in Lubumbashi in June 2022 to meet with stakeholders and visit an artisanal cobalt mine site.
RMI Executive Director Jennifer Peyser and Her Excellency Antoinette N’Samba Kalambayi, Minister of Mines from the Democratic Republic of the Congo at DRC Mining Week in June 2022.
- The RMI held a restitution workshop in the DRC, co-sponsored by the Global Battery Alliance, to discuss the changes made to the ASM Cobalt Standard in response to stakeholder engagement in 2021, in partnership with the Minister’s technical committee.
- A public webinar was also made available to stakeholders in July 2022 to share updates on the changes made following the global consultation on the ASM Cobalt Criteria.
DRAFT ASM Cobalt Framework (Also in Chinese and French) as of June 2022.
These versions will be reviewed during the DRC restitution workshops in June/July and RMI member and stakeholder webinars to in July 2022.
- The RMI Steering Committee and the Minister of Mines formally approved the ASM Cobalt Criteria.
- The RMI invited Her Excellency the Minister of Mines to keynote the Responsible Minerals Initiative Conference in October 2022.
- The RMI convened regularly with other initiatives and organizations working on ASM cobalt issues, including business associations, NGOs, international organizations, and government representatives from the U.S., DRC, and EU.
- In January 2023, the RMI co-hosted a roundtable with CTCPM and the EU Representative in Kinshasa to discuss a centralized system for addressing child labor at ASM cobalt sites that has been developed between the ILO and DRC government.
As of February 2023, the RMI is finalizing the pilot assessment tools for implementation of the ASM Cobalt Standard (formerly ASM Cobalt Criteria draft) at ASM sites. The DRC government representatives are developing a list of sites for pilot implementation to test the Standard effectiveness.