Operations commence at DRC’s artisanal cobalt mining enterprise

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has confirmed that operations have begun at Entreprise Générale du Cobalt (EGC) – an enterprise that aims to oversee the purchase and sales of cobalt produced by artisanal miners.

The state-run company was created a year ago to help control artisanal supplies and boost government revenue through price controls. ECG will sell cobalt hydroxide under a five-year contract with trading house Trafigura.

The non-exclusive supply deal will also see Trafigura finance the creation of strictly controlled artisanal mining zones, buying centres and logistics to trace supply.

Trafigura has previously made attempts to formalise the artisanal mining sector in the DRC – which is expected to produce 8,000 tonnes of cobalt this year – with a pilot project at Chemaf Sarl’s Mutoshi mine in 2018.

Child labour and lacking health and safety measures are well documented issues faced by an estimated 200,000 people in the DRC’s artisanal mining industry, which is typified by individuals digging for cobalt and copper by hand in the Katana region of the country.

These concerns have compelled electric vehicle (EV) makers, including Tesla and Volskwagen, to pledge to improve working conditions in the DRC, which holds around 70% of global reserves of cobalt – a crucial component in lithium-ion batteries used in the fast-growing EV sector.

“All of us engaged in this endeavour are aligned in a firm commitment to collaborate transparently with our stakeholders and to ensure that together we create effective solutions for responsibly sourced cobalt,” Trafigura executive chairman and CEO Jeremy Weir said.