Project for responsible artisanal cobalt mining in Kolwezi, DR Congo: launching on-site activities
September 19, 2019
With the pilot project “Cobalt for Development”, the BMW Group, BASF SE, Samsung SDI and Samsung Electronics yesterday kicked off their cross-industrial initiative aimed at improving working conditions of the people working at an artisanal cobalt mine site in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo). Cobalt is a key component in the production of batteries for electronic devices and electrified vehicles. Most of the global cobalt reserves and production are located in the south of the DR Congo.
The companies from the electronics, automotive and chemical industries have therefore commissioned the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to test within three years how living and working conditions in artisanal cobalt mining and in the surrounding communities can be improved. The commissioning companies will not operate the mine. Together with authorities in the province of Lualaba, the project has selected a legal artisanal mine site nearby Kolwezi to pilot the approach.
“Sustainability is an important aspect of our corporate strategy and plays a key role in expanding electro-mobility. We are fully aware of our responsibility: Cobalt and other commodities must be extracted and processed under ethically responsible conditions,” emphasizes Dr. Andreas Wendt, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Purchasing and Supplier Network. The company’s commitment to projects such as Cobalt for Development is fundamental to ensuring that suppliers also consistently comply with the BMW Group’s high social and environmental standards. “If the project is a success, these approaches can be transferred to other small, non-industrial mines over the long term,” said Dr. Wendt.
Dr. Hans-Ulrich Engel, Chief Financial Officer and Vice Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF SE said: “BASF is committed to a responsible and sustainable global supply chain for cobalt. Although BASF does not procure cobalt from artisanal mines, we actively support “Cobalt for Development” as it aims to look for new ways to improve the sustainability of the supply chain. This project also contributes to the goals of the Global Battery Alliance of which BASF is a founding member. Cooperation with partners along the value chain drives change and increases the impact at all stages in the production.”
During the upcoming months, the pilot project will focus on analyzing occupational and environmental risks to develop and implement responsible mining practices. Local partners such as the artisanal mining cooperative will participate from the beginning in developing and implementing these measures to strengthen local ownership and sustainability of the approach. In the nearby community, the focus will be to improve access to education, as well as financial literacy and alternative incomes for its residents.
At the official launch of “Cobalt for Development,” representatives of the financing companies met with the Governor of Lualaba Richard Muyej Mangeze Mans and Secretary General of the National Ministry of Mines Joseph Ikoli Yombo Y’Apeke. The event in Kolwezi was also attended by representatives of the civil society and private sector.
The progress of “Cobalt for Development” is regularly evaluated internally and by a committee of local representatives to continuously improve the project approach. These lessons learnt could then form the basis if project measures are extended to other mine sites.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is a federal enterprise with worldwide operations in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development. For the “Cobalt for Development” project, GIZ collaborates with IMPACT, an international non-governmental organization that specializes in improving natural resource governance, and Good Shepherd International Foundation / Bon Pasteur, an organization with longstanding community development experience in the area.