Kumi to provide confidence in Democratic Republic of Congo’s artisanal cobalt production

New mining standard will drive positive impacts in the DRC’s artisanal cobalt sector

Kumi to provide robust due diligence as part of the transformational programme

Transparency of reporting will provide assurance to downstream customers

Kumi has been chosen as the assurance provider for an initiative that will transform artisanal and small scale (ASM) cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Importantly, this will mean that downstream customers can source ASM cobalt from the DRC with confidence.

Kumi will conduct regular due diligence at the ASM sites operated by Entreprise Générale du Cobalt (EGC), established by the government of the DRC to purchase, process and sell all of the cobalt from the DRC’s ASM sector. EGC, supported by its partners, Trafigura and Pact, have launched a new and comprehensive Responsible Sourcing Standard, against which Kumi will conduct its assessments.

Andrew Britton, Managing Director of Kumi said, “We, alongside the EGC Technical Committee, have been working hard to support the EGC with the development of their standard. This is the only responsible sourcing standard that will apply to all EGC sites. It goes beyond regulatory compliance and is aligned with OECD Due Diligence Guidance. Moreover, Kumi’s regular, robust assessments against the standard will drive programme implementation and continual performance improvement by EGC and its partners.”

Watch the video below to hear Andrew Britton speaking at the launch of the EGC Responsible Sourcing Standard:

Driving positive impacts in the supply chain

Of critical importance to Kumi was that the EGC’s Standard is action-oriented and focused on specific, measurable activities that control risks or drive positive impacts. Not only should this improve the conditions of ASM workers but also those communities impacted by EGC’s activities.

“EGC’s Responsible Sourcing Standard applies to all parties in the cobalt value chain,” added Britton. “There is a growing number of major companies in the automotive and technology sectors expressing an interest in supporting ASM supply chains. Kumi will be reaching out to those companies as part of the assurance process to ensure the buyers of the ASM cobalt can fulfil their own responsible sourcing commitments.”

Confidence through transparency

Kumi will bring radical transparency to the buyer’s of EGC’s cobalt. Buyers will receive assurance reports providing key findings of assessments and meaningful summaries of risk and performance. Kumi has already undertaken a baseline assessment at what is likely to be EGC’s first operational site. The challenges ahead were evident. The conditions at the assessed site, which had for several years been ‘monitored’ under a supply chain initiative, posed very serious risks to workers and were not even close to the minimum expectations of the new EGC standard.

This photo was taken in January 2021 during Kumi’s baseline assessment of a site that is likely to become the first site under the EGC programme. This particular site had been subject to a supply chain monitoring programme for several years, however, the conditions for workers were extremely dangerous. As this photo shows, ground conditions across the site were highly unstable, yet the hundreds of miners working at the site risked their lives for hundreds of metres through this unstable overburden to reach the ore body. There was no evidence that any steps had been taken to reduce safety risks to mine workers. Sites like this will require substantial work to bring them up to the EGC’s standards.

Trafigura, the global commodity trader and one of EGC’s partners, signed an offtake agreement with EGC in November 2020. Trafigura will be supplying cobalt to many of their downstream customers. At the EGC launch, James Nicholson, Trafigura’s Head of Corporate Responsibility, said, “The response to the EGC initiative from stakeholders — including highly-reputed technology companies and automotive manufacturers — has been positive. They understand the challenge at hand and welcome the transparency and assurance that we are bringing to the table. Their reaction suggests very clearly to us at Trafigura that information about how EGC cobalt will be produced and brought to market is likely to be as valuable to them as the material itself. “

Watch the video below to hear James Nicholson speaking at the EGC Responsible Sourcing Standard launch:

Constructive engagement

Kumi will be working with EGC, Trafigura and their partners on the successful implementation of EGC’s Responsible Sourcing Standard. Done well, this will deliver a radical transformation that will improve lives of the people producing the cobalt we all need for the clean energy transition. Constructive support and engagement of international stakeholders with the EGC programme will not only make a huge difference to the positive impacts that can be achieved, but in the case of downstream companies will play a key part in fulfilling their own responsible sourcing commitments.

About Kumi

Kumi is a consultancy that specialises in helping companies to design, implement and assess responsible sourcing practices. Kumi has been working in the DRC cobalt sector since 2017 including the provision of strategic advice and due diligence services for Trafigura during the piloting and implementation of a large-scale ASM formalisation project at the Mutoshi concession in Kolwezi.

Kumi is helping shape the responsible sourcing compliance agenda, in its role as the European Commission’s compliance assessor for the EU Conflict Minerals Regulation, and in its work with the OECD on the alignment of industry programmes with the OECD’s responsible sourcing standards.

For more information, contact us here.