Archive | Mining Child and Slave Labour – Historical and Current

Cobalt, Congo and the responsible investor – by Martin Grosskope (Globe and Mail – October 10, 2019)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

Martin Grosskopf is a vice-president and portfolio manager at AGF Investments Inc.

There is a dark side to a brighter, cleaner and smarter future. It starts with lithium-ion batteries that contain cobalt, the material needed to power our new technologies, giving way to the 21st century’s version of the great gold rush as global giants such as China move to wrest control of the world’s supply.

These batteries are used in everything from our smartphones and laptops to electric vehicles (EVs) and have earned the “blood batteries” moniker because they are sometimes mined by children and other locals in unsafe conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The misery in which these so-called artisanal miners work, and their rising death toll, has thrust cobalt mining in the Congo into the international spotlight. The issue is also raising vexing questions for those with an interest in responsible investing. Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Why the cobalt market needs Congo’s “illegal” miners – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – July 12, 2019)

https://www.reuters.com/

LONDON, July 12 (Reuters) – Cobalt is back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The death last month of 43 artisan miners at the Kamoto Copper Company KOV concession in the Democratic Republic of Congo has refocused attention on the human cost of producing what is a key input into electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

The KOV concession is majority-owned by a subsidiary of trading and mining group Glencore. The official response to the incident – sending the army to clear around 20,000 “illegal” miners from the area around the mine – merely underlines the problematic nature of the world’s dependence on Congo for its supply of cobalt.

The country accounted for around 64% of global mined production last year, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The latest incidents will do nothing to reassure automotive companies about the future stability of sustainable supply and will incentivise them further to try and reduce the amount of cobalt in EV batteries. Continue Reading →

India’s top court sides with indigenous people over illegal mining fallout – by Rina Chandran (Thomson Reuters Foundation – July 4, 2019)

https://uk.reuters.com/

BANGKOK, July 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Indigenous people in an Indian state must be protected from illegal mining and the pollution it causes, the country’s top court ruled, providing a “historic” victory to tribal groups fighting for better rights over land and natural resources.

Indigenous people, who own much of the land in northeastern Meghalaya state, have full rights over the land and any resources on it, and only they can grant permission for mining after the correct permits are obtained, the Supreme Court ruled.

The state government had “entirely failed to stop illegal mining, which is the cause of degradation and pollution”, and must end illegal mining and rehabilitate the environment, it said on Wednesday. Continue Reading →

Why Japan and South Korea Still Spar Over History – by Youkyung Lee (July 1, 2019)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

Japan’s colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula ended more than seven decades ago yet that legacy still roils everyday politics on both sides of the strait.

South Korea and Japan, major trading partners and both U.S. military allies, have been at loggerheads over what constitutes proper contrition and compensation for two groups of Koreans: those conscripted to work in factories and mines that supplied Japan’s imperial war machine, and those euphemistically called “comfort women” who were forced to work in military brothels.

Japan contends all claims were settled under a 1965 bilateral treaty and a fund set up in 2015. Seoul argues Japan hasn’t atoned enough. Some of Japan’s largest companies and the emperor himself have been dragged into the fray.

1. What are the roots of the forced labor dispute? Continue Reading →

Child labour in mining, poor working conditions take centre stage in inter-regional meeting – by APO (Business Ghana – May 30, 2019)

https://www.businessghana.com/

Experts and global actors from Africa, Asia and South America gathered in Manila to address child labour and poor working conditions in artisanal and small-scale gold mines (ASGM).

The first-ever Inter-regional Knowledge-Sharing Forum on Child Labour and Working Conditions in ASGM of the International Labour Organization (ILO) served as a platform for dialogue.

Governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, international non-government organizations, civil society organizations, miners’ groups and their communities, and ASGM supply chain actors joined the forum.

Countries represented include Colombia, Congo, Cote d’ Ivoire, France, Ghana, Guyana, Indonesia, Italy, Mali, Mongolia, Nigeria, Philippines, Thailand, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. Continue Reading →

BMW to Source Cobalt Directly From Australia, Morocco Mines – by William Clowes (Bloomberg News – April 24, 2019)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

BMW AG will buy cobalt directly from mines in Australia and Morocco to ensure the metal purchased for its electric vehicles is sourced responsibly, according to the head of procurement at the German automaker.

The measure comes as the London Metal Exchange carries out a supply-chain review to address concerns that cobalt stored in its warehouses may be linked to child labor. The supply of the commodity, mostly mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, faced scrutiny in recent years as humanitarian groups said it’s being produced in unethical conditions.

The newly sourced metal will be used in BMW’s next generation of electric vehicles that will be built from 2020, Andreas Wendt said at a briefing in Paris on Tuesday. The company won’t buy directly from small-scale Congolese mines in the short-term, he said. Continue Reading →

LME to ban metal tainted by child labor or corruption – by Zandi Shabalala (Reuters U.S. – April 23, 2019)

https://www.reuters.com/

LONDON (Reuters) – The London Metal Exchange (LME) could ban or delist brands that are not responsibly sourced by 2022 under an initiative launched on Tuesday to help root out metal tainted by child labor or corruption.

But the LME, seeking to avoid overly punishing small mining brands to the benefit of larger miners such as Glencore, said it would not single out cobalt and tin for accelerated auditing.

Cobalt, a key ingredient in the batteries that power electric vehicles, is mined by small, artisinal operations mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where supply chains are not strictly monitored. Continue Reading →

Demand for Congo’s cobalt is on the rise. So is the scrutiny of mining practices. – by Sarah Katz-Lavigne (Washington Post – February 21, 2019)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Congo’s contested elections in December resulted in the country’s first electoral transfer of power, 59 years after independence. The outcome — with Félix Tshisekedi defeating the candidate backed by departing president Joseph Kabila — has been much in the news.

Cobalt is making headlines, too, along with questions about how the new president will manage resource governance in the mineral-rich country. Congo accounts for at least 60 percent of worldwide cobalt production and has about 50 percent of known global cobalt reserves.

My research in southeastern Congo suggests cobalt mining will prove an increasingly complex policy hurdle for the new president. Many Congolese rely on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) for their incomes. Continue Reading →

Fourteen NGOs oppose LME plans to ban tainted cobalt – by Zandi Shabalala and Pratima Desai (Reuters Africa – February 7, 2019)

https://af.reuters.com/

LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) – Fourteen non-governmental organisations (NGOs) including Amnesty and Global Witness have opposed plans by the London Metal Exchange to ban cobalt tainted by human rights abuses, a letter seen by Reuters showed.

Cobalt is a key ingredient in the batteries that power electric vehicles, a fast-growing sector of the auto industry, and in metal alloys used to make jet engines. It was singled out in LME proposals to embed responsible sourcing principles into metal brands deliverable against its contracts, which include copper and zinc.

Most of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, often from artisanal mines where several organisations have cited human rights abuses. Continue Reading →

Supreme Court to decide whether Canada’s Nevsun can be sued in Canada for actions abroad – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – January 24, 2019)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

The Supreme Court of Canada heard oral arguments on Wednesday in a historic case that could have broad legal ramifications for any domestic company that operates abroad.

At issue is whether a group of African refugees has the right to sue former Canadian base metals miner Nevsun Resources Ltd. in Canada for alleged human-rights abuses overseas. (Vancouver-based Nevsun was recently acquired by Chinese company, Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd. for $1.9-billion.)

The case was launched a number of years ago in the B.C. Supreme Court by three Eritrean refugees who accused Nevsun of violating international law pertaining to forced labour, slavery and torture during the construction of its Bisha mine in Eritrea from 2008 to 2010. Continue Reading →

What did Canadian mining executives know about possible human rights violations in Eritrea? – by Scott Anderson (CBC News Fifth Estate – January 22, 2019)

https://www.cbc.ca/

Mine workers suing Nevsun Resources over allegations of forced labour, slavery, torture

For years, Vancouver-based mining firm Nevsun Resources has dismissed allegations that forced labour was used to build its mine in the repressive east African country of Eritrea.

Nevsun executives have denied direct knowledge of human rights violations at their Bisha mine site in a CBC interview and during an appearance before a parliamentary committee.

But company documents filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia last November and reviewed by CBC’s The Fifth Estate show executives at the highest level appear to have been informed of issues of forced labour at their mine site a decade ago. Continue Reading →

How Canada’s dazzling future in diamonds ended in fraud allegations – by Jennifer Wells (Toronto Star – January 14, 2019)

https://www.thestar.com/

This is not going to be a column about the manufactured consumption of diamonds. But it is going to be a column about the manufacture — the cutting and polishing — of diamonds.

The news from Tiffany & Co. of a diamond provenance initiative is welcome. Steps the company has taken as of this week — providing geographic sourcing information for individual diamonds — will be ramped up in 2020 when the New York jewelry house begins sharing the “craftsmanship journey,” as in, where those stones were turned into princess-cut bedazzlers. Do you want your diamond to be ethically sourced? Of course you do.

Some may think, brightly: Tiffany-blue ring boxes, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn. Others may think, insightfully: conflict diamonds, blood diamonds, child labour. I think, simply: Northwest Territories, squandered economic opportunity, a sprinkling of fraud. They’re all connected. Human rights abuses abroad bleed as deeply through the mining of diamonds as those kimberlite pipes that plunge beneath the Arctic surface. Continue Reading →

Canadian miner Nevsun Resources has a tangled relationship with one of the world’s most repressive regimes – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – December 29, 2018)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

The road from Eritrea’s mountain capital to the Red Sea is narrow and dangerous. It descends steeply in switchbacks and hairpin turns, dotted with stone crosses that mark the deaths of drivers who failed to navigate the hazards: rock falls, steep cliffs, wandering goats, herds of camels, troops of baboons.

Now, the mountain road has a new menace: Hundreds of massive, Chinese-made trucks are thundering in a steady procession to the sea, carrying thousands of tonnes of zinc and copper concentrate from a Canadian-owned mine and roaring perilously close to shepherds and village children along the route.

The mine’s majority owner, Vancouver-based Nevsun Resources Ltd., has been warned by its own human-rights auditor – and by the United Nations children’s agency – about the potentially lethal risks of the truck traffic on the mountain road, especially to local children. Continue Reading →

Supreme Court set to hear Nevsun Resources case on Eritrea human rights abuses – by Julius Melnitzer (Financial Post – December 27, 2018)

https://business.financialpost.com/

The future of the Canadian resource industry hangs in the balance as the Supreme Court of Canada prepares to hear a high-profile case accusing Canadian miner Nevsun Resources Ltd. of human rights abuses in Eritrea.

At the heart of the hearing, set for Jan. 23, is whether customary international law (CIL) — a fairly undefined and shifting body of law that has, to date, only been applied to sovereign states — will now apply to Canadian companies. Traditionally, Canadian courts have been loath to deal with violations of international law that have occurred abroad.

The Nevsun case could change that — an unappealing outcome for Canadian multinationals, especially resource-extraction companies who must often enter into arrangements with foreign governments regarding their exploration and development initiatives. Continue Reading →

What really powers your smartphone and electric car – by Lynsey Chutel (Quartz.com – December 8, 2018)

https://qz.com/

The rechargeable lithium-ion battery helps define our era. It powers our smartphones and electric cars, and promises a future where we’re better able to store renewable energy. It also requires lithium and cobalt, minerals that some of the world’s poorest countries happen to have in abundance.

That should be good news for all concerned, but mismanagement and graft—common in extractive industries—are making the latest mining boom looks uncomfortably like the bad old days of previous booms.

This week provided reminders of that. First, the Democratic Republic of Congo tripled its levies on cobalt, of which it has the world’s largest natural supply, in a move that could result in pricier smartphones and production slowdowns for electric-car makers. Also, HSBC released a report showing that the projected market share of electric vehicles will be smaller than first thought, due to the high price of lithium and cobalt amid soaring demand. Continue Reading →