The Centre for Child Rights and Business and Save the Children Germany have jointly released a study on child rights in cobalt artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The study examines the current situation of children and communities linked to cobalt ASM sites, the root causes of child labour, working conditions at the mines, the impact of formalisation and the role international companies can play in addressing child labour and improving child rights.
The study is based on visits to 10 ASM sites in the DRC, input from 207 parent artisanal miners, 209 children from ASM communities and 27 in-depth interviews with local and community stakeholders.
The study finds that children in cobalt ASM communities are facing an education crisis that has worsened in recent years and has been further aggravated by the income shocks of a cobalt price slump and unstable supply chains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Child labour is also prevalent in cobalt ASM, with one in six children in ASM communities working. According to the study, limited access to education is one of the key drivers of child labour in cobalt ASM. The older the children are, the more likely they are to try to balance work with school, leading to a significant uptick in the percentage of secondary-school children working. Of those, 90% work to pay for school. On the other hand, for younger children who are out of school, there are very few incentives or support systems in place to help them transition back into the education system after dropping out.
Other child rights issues identified by the study include exposure to air-borne pollutants from the mines, a high risk of road accidents and poor psychological health, driven by negative emotions including stress, worry and anger.
In addition to spotlighting the latest child rights situation in cobalt ASM in the DRC, another major aim of the study is to trigger discussions and ultimately actions among downstream players (such as battery producers, technology and car companies) in formalising ASM. The study examines the progress that has been made in formalising ASM and co-operatives to date and highlights the impact that such initiatives are having on child rights.
Finally, the study puts forward a number of recommendations for downstream brands and buyers to address root causes of child labour and to promote child rights in ASM. These include:
Engage ASM as part of the supply chain to push for formalisation
Set up a functional child labour remediation system as part of formalisation efforts
Investment in ASM communities should focus on improving access to education and reduction of school fees
Formalisation efforts should push economic partnerships between LSM and ASM to improve productivity and safety
LSM investment in ASM communities to improve the living conditions (infrastructure) should not only be considered as a philanthropic contribution but to be expected as part of a due diligence process
For further information on The Centre for Child Rights and Business’ work to support child rights in cobalt supply chains including ASM, please contact us.
Download the full study
Opportunities for Businesses to Promote Child Rights in Cobalt ASM_2021 Study.pdf
Infographic_Overview of Study on Child Rights in Cobalt ASM in the DRC.pdf