London — Artisanal supplies from the Democratic Republic of Congo are vital to keep the cobalt market balanced, but have become harder to track and audit due to a higher incidence of local processing, participants in an introductory webinar to DRC Mining Week said June 9.
“Since 2016, most artisanal ore is blended and processed into cobalt hydroxide in the DRC, making it harder to track and audit supply chains,” said George Heppel, senior analyst, CRU Group, on the webinar organized by DRC Mining Week together with Mining Review Africa.
This contrasts to the situation before that date, when artisanally mined (ASM) cobalt was traditionally shipped directly to China in the form of concentrates, making it easy to trace, according to the analyst.
As ASM accounts for between 20%-40% of cobalt production from the DRC – which in turn supplies two thirds of total global production of the minor metal and employs as many as 200,000 people there — “we can’t ignore ASM,” said James Nicholson, head of corporate responsibility of global trader Trafigura, a major buyer of the metal.
Trafigura has set up a semi-mechanized pilot project, Mutoshi, together with local concession-holder Chemaf, the COMIAKOL cooperative and PACT, an NGO to formalize some ASM activities in the DRC.