All minerals produced through small-scale mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC’s) southeastern Lualaba province must be tested and sold at a centralized trade hub starting in June 2020, the provincial governor said.
The move, which the provincial governor said was intended to fight mining fraud and maximize state revenues, reflects a national push to centralize cobalt trading through a state monopoly created in January 2020, the Entreprise Generale de Cobalt.
The sale of all nonindustrially sourced material, including large quantities of cobalt, was suspended until the new arrangements were put in place, Lualaba Gov. Richard Muyej said in a June 2020 letter.
The new regulations are intended to improve transparency in the supply chain, Muyej said.
Small-scale miners account for about 20% of the cobalt output from the DRC, the world’s largest producer of the metal. The majority is mined in Lualaba and neighboring Haut-Katanga province.
The metal is a key component in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in mobile phones, laptops and electric cars. Trading of artisanal cobalt, which is extracted with rudimentary tools and often associated with child labor and dangerous working conditions, is dominated by Chinese middlemen, usually linked to the Chinese Communist Party. The material is often mixed with industrially produced cobalt, raising the risk of contaminating supply chains for end users such as Apple, Tesla and Microsoft. Reuters