LONDON (Reuters) – The Democratic Republic of Congo will launch this month new monitoring and tracing mechanisms to tackle child labor in cobalt and copper production, a mines ministry official said on Thursday.
Sourcing of the metals has come into focus as manufacturers scramble to secure supplies of cobalt, a key component in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, as production of electric cars surges.
Congo is by far the world’s biggest producer of cobalt, accounting for more than half of global supply. But rights groups say child labor is used to produce some of that cobalt. Amnesty International calculates a fifth of the country’s cobalt output is mined by hand by informal miners, including children.
Alexis Mikandji, the director general of the Ministry of Mines’ certification agency, CEEC, said the Congo had eliminated the practice in the production of diamonds, iron ore and tungsten. Now it has moved on to tackle child labor at copper and cobalt mines, Mikandji told a metals conference in London.
“There (in copper and cobalt mines) we have stepped in to look at putting in traceability and monitoring systems,” Mikandji said.“In fact, these mechanisms that I have just mentioned will be operational this very month, March 2018.”