Commodities trader Trafigura has announced its plans to end an artisanal cobalt formalisation project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
This project was operated by Trafigura alongside miner Chemaf and NGO PACT for almost two years.
Since early last year, a cooperative of artisanal miners of the Mutoshi project site has produced cobalt, and sold it to the commodities trader.
However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this project site has been closed.
The project is slated to end on 31 December as Chemaf intends to develop an industrial mine at site, reported Reuters.
According to Trafigura, this move is partly because the country’s law now mandates all artisanal production of cobalt, an important battery material, to be sold through Entreprise Generale du Cobalt (EGC), which is the state-run cobalt company.
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In November, Trafigura signed a five-year supply agreement with EGC.
Under this deal, Trafigura will fund the establishment of artisanal mining zones, buying hubs and logistics to trace supply. This assumes importance given that
the end users are under pressure to make their supply chains free from child labour and any conflict.
Out of several projects in the country, Mutoshi is one such project intending to regulate artisanal mining of cobalt. Usually, the artisanal mining segment witnesses accidents and child labour. It, however, also provides jobs to around 150,000 people in the country.
Chemaf, the Congo subsidiary of Dubai-based Shalina Resources, did not comment on the ending of the Mutoshi project, reported Reuters.
Congo’s Mines Minister said that the ending of the project would not alter the total cobalt production in the country.