Microsoft calls for ‘coalition’ to improve Congo’s informal cobalt mines (Reuters – February 8, 2023)

CAPE TOWN, Feb 8 (Reuters) – Microsoft visited an artisanal cobalt mine in Democratic Republic of Congo in December as part of attempts to jump-start formalisation of the little-regulated and dangerous industry that experts say is key to meeting global demand for the battery material.

Congo accounts for three-quarters of the world’s mined cobalt supply. Industrial mines produce most of Congo’s cobalt, but “artisanal” miners, who dig by hand and often die when tunnels cave in, account for up to 30% of production, though that fluctuates depending on price.

In the first known visit by a Microsoft (MSFT.O) executive to an artisanal cobalt site in Congo, chief of staff for tech and corporate responsibility Michele Burlington met miners at Mutoshi, where commodities trader Trafigura had helped run a formalisation scheme that ended in 2020.

Companies that use cobalt in products from electric cars to smartphones should work to improve conditions at artisanal mines instead of seeking to cut artisanal cobalt out of their supply chains, an independent report on the visit argued on Wednesday.

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