RCS Global & Responsible Minerals Initiative expand DRC cobalt & copper Better Mining artisanal mine monitoring program

RCS Global Group and the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) have announced the expansion of the Better Mining artisanal and small-scale mine (ASM) monitoring program to additional cobalt and copper mine sites in the Lualaba province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The expansion will begin with the immediate addition of a mine site near Likasi followed by a fifth site currently under evaluation. Better Mining and the RMI aim to scale the program to 12 sites across the DRC by 2023.

The agreement signals the next phase in the expansion of the Better Mining program, which is seen as a critical pillar in the formalisation of ASM mining and eventual acceptance of ASM material on global metals markets.

An agreement has also been reached to extend Better Mining’s partnership with Huayou Cobalt, China’s largest cobalt refiner, to continue monitoring the Kasulo and Kamilombe mine sites for a further two years. The extension will include partnerships for the implementation of local improvement measures.

In a further move, Better Mining has announced that it will be coordinating its efforts with the Fair Cobalt Alliance, a supply chain action platform founded by Huayou Cobalt, Fairphone, Signify and the Impact Facility, which is beginning its technical work to improve working conditions at artisanal mining sites informed by Better Mining data.

Implemented at cobalt, copper and 3TG ASM sites in the DRC, the extension of the partnership with Huayou Cobalt and the expansion to further sites is the latest positive milestone for the Better Mining program, which is actively supported by key market actors including Volvo Cars and other downstream brands.

Better Mining assesses and continually monitors risks and impacts on ASM mine sites in alignment with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance and other responsible sourcing criteria. The data is delivered through agents permanently stationed at mines sites, equipped with mobile digital monitoring tools.

At the same time as supporting the expansion of the Better Mining Program, the RMI is working with stakeholders to define market acceptance for responsibly produced ASM cobalt, and ensure those expectations are integrated into standards applicable to cobalt producers and refiners as well as embedded in guidance and processes applicable to downstream companies. Cobalt supply chain actors can benefit from the presence of independent monitoring and the resulting data at ASM sites to assist with their responsible procurement decisions.

Bryce Lee, Director of CSR at Huayou Cobalt commented: “Huayou Cobalt remains committed to supporting the development of a formalised ASM cobalt sector in the DRC where miners who are dependent on this work for their livelihoods can work safely and securely. Our collaboration with Better Mining is one of the key pillars in this mission, we look forward to continuing our engagement with the program.”

Leah Butler, Vice President, Responsible Business Alliance said: “The RMI is committed to supporting responsible ASM cobalt production so that it is recognized by the market and contributes positively to local communities. The independent site monitoring and reporting services provided by Better Mining is a crucial component of this process that we are pleased to scale with the support of RMI members and other stakeholders.”

RCS Global Group Managing Director, Ferdinand Maubrey added: “Huayou Cobalt were one of our foundational partners when Better Mining began in 2018. Two years on, we are delighted that the company will continue to support our work in improving the ASM cobalt sector. Supporting formalisation of ASM in the DRC and allowing for a way for responsibly produced ASM cobalt to enter international supply chains will ensure that the livelihoods of the people dependant on ASM is maintained while respecting human  rights and implementing better practice. We are grateful for the support of key supply chain actors to continue on this journey.”