Mining Indaba 2020
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Corruption, child-labor risk in Congo’s cobalt industry, OECD warns

Highlights

  • Paris-based group calls for more oversight of Congo’s mines
  • Minerals from artisanal mines often mix with industrial output

Companies mining and buying copper and cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo must do more to fight corruption and child labor in the country, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said.

Congo is the world’s largest cobalt producer and fifth-largest producer of copper, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. As demand for the two minerals has soared with the growth of the electronic and electric-vehicle industries, so have worries about the conditions under which they are mined. Cobalt is a key component in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, and Congo has almost half the world’s known reserves.

Child labor and human-rights abuses are common in small-scale mining sites in Congo, where independent, artisanal miners dig by hand, the OECD said in a report published Friday. While companies have been trying to address these concerns, they should also mind reports of corruption among the country’s biggest mining firms, the Paris-based organization said.

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Several of the Congo’s biggest miners, including Glencore Plc and Eurasian Resources Group Sarl, are under investigation in the U.S. and U.K. for allegations of corruption in their Congo operations.

Companies should be “proactive about addressing risks, for example by improving working conditions in artisanal mining or taking action to address corruption in their supply chains,” Ben Katz, co-author of the OECD report, said in a statement. Production from Congo’s artisanal mines often gets mixed in with industrial output, he said.

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The OECD is an intergovernmental organization made up of mainly wealthy nations that supports world trade. The report is part of the group’s guidance for companies “to respect human rights and avoid contributing to conflict or bribery through their mineral or metal purchasing decisions and practices.”

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