Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) Cobalt Framework Consultation

Global consultation provided by the Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI) and the Global Battery Alliance’s Cobalt Action Partnership (GBA CAP)

Background

The Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI) and the Cobalt Action Partnership (CAP), and their supply chain partners, have come together to foster the establishment of transparent, verifiable and responsible ASM cobalt value chains.

The Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) Cobalt ESG Management Framework (hereinafter referred to as ASM Cobalt Framework) is a progressive set of expectations for the responsible sourcing of artisanal and small-scale mined cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that has been developed, consulted on, and supported by global cobalt supply chain actors, governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and cobalt stakeholders.

In 2020, the Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI) entrusted The Impact Facility (TIF) to further develop a draft framework for ASM cobalt initially composed by the founding members of the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA). This resource was shared with the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) and the Cobalt Action Partnership (CAP) partners for their feedback, and to serve as a starting point for the development of a common set of global expectations for responsible-produced cobalt across the supply chain. Since that time, the RCI and CAP have held introductory meetings with key DRC and global stakeholders, benchmarked the framework against relevant DRC standards and laws as well as other ASM standards, and made key changes to the format and content of the original document in line with key stakeholder feedback.

All the organizations working together recognize that on-the-ground improvements are needed to the ASM cobalt mine sites. Coordinated action and shared responsibility of all stakeholders across the cobalt supply chain is needed to produce and source ASM cobalt responsibly, respecting the human rights of all actors within their supply chain and contributing to positive impacts in the communities where their materials are sourced.

To achieve this goal, it is first necessary to reach a consensus with all stakeholders in the upstream and downstream of the cobalt supply chain on the threshold (minimum acceptable procurement requirement) for ASM cobalt, and then to channel funding and the provision of technical assistance for mine site improvements. Investments in mine sites, along with regular monitoring and assessment against the ASM Cobalt Framework which establishes clear, viable, and progressive requirements, will ultimately help to build a more inclusive and responsible cobalt supply chain.

Demand is growing for cobalt, and demand for responsibly sourced cobalt is growing even more rapidly. Ensuring there is a sufficient, sustainable supply of cobalt means including ASM miners – both women and men – as part of the process. Inclusivity and widespread support for miners is key. ASM provides a vital lifeline for millions of people worldwide. Our intention is to safeguard human rights and promote environmental stewardship by working with as many ASM sites as possible to improve conditions at the mine sites and within mining communities.

For more information on the history of this process, please see the ASM Cobalt Framework Vision.

Learn about our global consultation
to develop a framework for the responsible production of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) Cobalt from the DRC.

Consultation Objectives

The objective of this stakeholder consultation process is to solicit input into the development of a common, global set of expectations for responsible ASM cobalt production that achieves progressive, measurable improvements of miners’ working conditions and livelihoods and provides a globally recognized threshold for acceptability of cobalt by the entire value chain.

Simple, progressive, and uniform sourcing expectations that are validated via a multi-stakeholder consultation across the entire value chain provide for greater clarity for all, and more specifically, they:

  • Support the government’s formalization efforts for the ASM cobalt sector.
  • Enable improvements at mine sites and contribute to an increase in the quality of life of mining communities.
  • Channel investment into mine site improvements from industry stakeholders.
  • Ensure cobalt is produced to a standard that complies with the DRC’s legal requirements and meets global market expectations.
  • Provide all supply chain actors with more visibility to mine site performance.

We invite all stakeholders to engage in this process, from participation in the consultation to engagement in the implementation of the ASM Framework at ASM sites.

Available now:
Report from Stakeholder Consultations on the ASM Cobalt ESG Management Framework

With the goal of developing an inclusive and effective ASM Cobalt Framework, the Global Battery Alliance’s Cobalt Action Partnership commissioned a global stakeholder consultation. The report details insights, priorities, and recommendations from more than 200 key stakeholders across the value chain. Stakeholder consultations and the report were carried out by IMPACT and RESOLVE.

Read the report here.

Draft ASM Framework Overview

The ASM Cobalt Framework establishes a set of expectations in environment, social and governance (ESG) aspects for the mine sites in alignment with relevant Congolese laws and regulations, the OECD Due Diligence Guidance and the EGC Standard, with progressive levels of achievement formed to help sites meet these expectations over time and with assistance.

The Framework is built on the fundamental principle of pragmatic, continuous improvement to ensure its applicability and viability, rather than creating hurdles to market entry that risk excluding the very communities that need support.

The standards reviewed in the development of the draft ASM Framework include, but are not limited to:

Certified Trading Chains (CTC)

EGC Responsible Sourcing Standard

CRAFT

Fairtrade Standard for Gold and associated Precious Metals for Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining

OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas

Chinese Due Diligence Guidelines for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains

Cobalt Refiner Supply Chain Due Diligence Standard

The ASM Cobalt Framework builds on current applicable standards for ASM (see text box) and is organized around seven (7) key principles.


Principle 1: Good organizational governance

Principle 2: Respecting workers’ rights

Principle 3: Respecting and complying with the law

Principle 4: Ensuring workers’ occupational health and safety (OHS)

Principle 5: Contributing to Community Development

Principle 6: Protecting the environment and stewarding natural resources

Principle 7: Trading transparently and fairly


Under each of these principles, the proposed expectations are listed as requirements and divided among four levels:

Pre-requisite

Requirements confirm the mine operator commitment to working transparently towards meeting continuous improvement goals stipulated by the Framework, aiming at compliance with national and local law.

Pre-investment (Basic)

Requirements include minimum expectations that should be achievable without (significant) investment or external technical training. These requirements stipulate practices needed to address the risks specified in Annex II of the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance.

Continuous Improvement

Requirements describe enhanced production practices (to ensure workers’ health and safety, increased market transparency, reduced environmental impact of mining activities, etc.) that require access to investment and technical support to be achieved.

Best Practice

Requirements that represent best practices referenced by CTC and other recognized frameworks, to be aspired to over time.

As long as the mining cooperatives can make progress on improvements deemed to be within their own capacity (i.e., Pre-investment), then market actors will meet the mining cooperatives where they are and invest and engage to collectively achieve the more financially intensive improvements.

Enabling technical assistance and investment

To effectively support the ASM Cobalt Framework’s adoption and improved practices on the ground, it is necessary to clarify the responsibility of all relevant supply chain actors, and further explore fund-raising mechanisms to invest in cobalt ASM governance, aiming to improve working conditions on the ground where it matters the most for the miners and create the incentives and conditions for ASM operators to access to the legal market.The mechanism to deliver this support will be informed by the consultation and in accordance with the joint vision of all parties.

NGOs will play a strategic and complementary role (especially at the community level) to ensure that the private sector is investing and held accountable for the creation of a more robust and responsible supply chain.


Consultation and Engagement Process

The global stakeholder consultation on the Draft ASM Cobalt Framework took place throughout the months of June and July 2021, supported by Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI) and the Global Battery Alliance’s Cobalt Action Partnership (GBA CAP).

It was carried out on behalf of the CAP by two facilitators, IMPACT and RESOLVE, who collectively have decades of experience carrying out multi-stakeholder consultations related to local, national, and regional governance; beneficiation and market expectations of high value commodities; and natural resources in high risk areas.

In-person consultations were held in Lubumbashi and Kolwezi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as in the nation’s capital, Kinshasa. A mixed-research method was deployed: workshops, individual interviews, focus groups, and small technical group meetings. The intent was to enable a large and representative number of actors in the artisanal mining sector, including women and men from surrounding communities, to directly inform the process. DRC stakeholders were also invited to share comments in French (or English) on the consultation website and could submit detailed comments on the ASM Cobalt Framework within that document.

Likewise, for the international consultation outside of the DRC, a variety of methods will be used to allow multiple pathways for global industry, civil society, multi-stakeholder initiatives, and other international organizations to share input. Any interested, international stakeholder will be welcome to share individual feedback via an online survey and can submit detailed comments on the ASM Cobalt Framework within that document. The consultation will also leverage one-on-one interviews and group webinars organized in partnership with industry associations.

We welcome and actively invite interested international stakeholders to participate in the consultation through the above channels. The consultation sessions/interviews will provide simultaneous interpretation/consecutive interpretation in French, English, and Chinese depending on the language needs of the participants.

The results of the consultations will subsequently be made public in French, English, and Chinese.

For more information from RCI, please email rachelzhou@global-rci.org.

For more information from GBA CAP, please email cap@responsiblebusiness.org.

ASM Cobalt Framework
Consultation Overview

Download

ASM Cobalt Framework

Vision and Approach

Download

Draft ASM Cobalt Framework
(Bilingual: FR / EN)

Download

Stakeholder Online Dialogues
(June / July 2021)

24th June 2021
18:00 – 19:30 CEST | 12:00 – 13:30 EDT

Framework Overview and Objectives
In this session, presenters will briefly provide an update on CAP, then will outline the consultation process and present an overview of the Cobalt ASM Framework including its development journey. Facilitated discussion will seek participant feedback on the extent to which the Framework is designed to address and achieve intended its responsible sourcing objectives. We will also seek feedback on the principles embedded in the framework.

Languages:

English / French Translation

Hosted by:
Resolve

6th July 2021
15:00 – 16:15 CEST | 09:00 – 10:15 EDT

Framework Provisions and Requirements
In this session, participants will discuss and share feedback on the Framework provisions, with particular focus on a select set of key questions relating to the proposed requirements, such as occupational health and safety. (Organizers are in the process of scoping an agenda and discussion questions, to be shared with registrants prior to the call.)

Languages:

English / French Translation

Hosted by:
Resolve

13th July 2021
16:30 – 17:45 CEST | 10:30 – 11:45 EDT

Implementation and Investment
In this session, participants will discuss and share feedback on Framework implementation considerations, including design elements of a fund to direct investments to artisanal cobalt producers to support progressive improvement. Facilitated discussion will respond to priorities, as well as design and governance considerations the fund should reflect. 

Languages:

English / French Translation

Hosted by:
Resolve

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is an Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) Cobalt Framework needed?
Aren’t there already standards in place?
What is the purpose of the ASM Cobalt Framework?

There are existing and applicable laws, standards, and resources for stakeholders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and in the cobalt sector globally. A few examples include:

• The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has a robust set of laws and regulations applicable to the artisanal mining sector, including its Certified Trading Chains (CTC) standards applicable at the mine site level.

• The newly established Enterprise Générale du Cobalt (EGC) has launched its EGC Standard that defines the minimum requirements for it, and its commercial partners, to purchase ASM cobalt.

• At the refiner level, both the Responsible Minerals Initiative and the Responsible Cobalt Initiative have developed supply chain due diligence standards applicable to artisanal cobalt.

• In terms of guidance, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) developed an FAQ on Responsible Supply Chains in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining as a resource for stakeholders.

Despite the above, there was a gap identified by midstream and downstream companies in terms of a set of expectations for responsible sourcing at the ASM level for cobalt that was mutually recognized and accepted across the global supply chain (including regulators, traders, mining cooperatives, refiners, downstream buyers, consumers, etc.). Without this mutually accepted set of expectations, differing expectations developed among supply chain actors, meaning that cobalt could be rejected at any point in the global supply chain based on its inability to meet a specific actor’s production requirements. These varied expectations, and subsequent lack of assurance to specific expectations, have also resulted in the avoidance of purchasing ASM cobalt as a risk mitigation strategy by several actors.

The ASM Cobalt Framework (“Framework”) is intended to recognize, align with, and build off existing national laws, regulations, standards, and resources to serve as a uniform set of expectations that can be consulted on, improved, and ultimately accepted and recognized by all global stakeholders. The Framework addresses the current realities and limitations of ASM miners by establishing a set of practical, progressive expectations that are paired with investment from downstream actors and other supply chain stakeholders to ensure men and women working in the mining sector have the resources to address their needs and continuously improve production practices.

The Framework was initially developed as a draft using input from leading ASM standards, codes, and resources (including the CRAFT code, the Fairtrade and Fairmined standards and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas). It has been reviewed and benchmarked against both the CTC and EGC Standard and can best be described as a “ladder to CTC and EGC expectations”, in that expectations are aligned, but the Framework includes several precursor milestones to be met along the continuous improvement pathway.

Why was there a consultation on the draft ASM Cobalt Framework?

The organizations supporting the development of the ASM Cobalt Framework, including the Global Battery Alliance’s Cobalt Action Partnership and the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, believe that stakeholder engagement is essential for the Framework to achieve its objectives.

Indeed, the process is as important as the outcome. If stakeholders do not feel informed or adequately engaged, and/or if the process is perceived to be imposed by the international community and not co-designed and co-owned with Congolese actors and the relevant Congolese authorities, it will not succeed. If the ASM Cobalt Framework is to be mutually accepted and recognized by global stakeholders, then all affected stakeholders must be engaged, and those most critical to the supply chain must be recognized (including the miners and mining communities). The process of consultation is critical to setting the ASM Cobalt Framework up for success.

The consultation has been designed purposefully and with recognition that stakeholders do not have equal power or voice, and that vast cultural differences exist. The consultation aims to provide safe and open spaces for women and men to interpret and understand the ASM Cobalt Framework and its intent, so that they can freely express their views and be heard. The process of consultation is intended to enhance trust within groups of stakeholders and between stakeholders. It is also intended to lay the groundwork for support and buy-in of all the key stakeholders. The consultation has been generating discussion and gathering feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders – throughout the supply chain but also from those who directly represent or work with artisanal mining communities.

What are the expected outcomes of this consultation process?

The consultation is intended to share the draft Framework, promote engagement and discussion of its key tenets, solicit feedback, and open a dialogue among global and national stakeholders on each others’ expectations. It will identify points of convergence, as well as points where views diverge, that will be instrumental in shaping the Framework going forward. As mentioned above, existing standards have been benchmarked and integrated into the Framework already. However, these standards are often very difficult for upstream artisanal supply chain actors to realize. The consultation can thus be used to identify how and where to leverage cooperation and targeted investments to enable more upstream supply chain actors to realize improved conditions over time.

Meaningfully engaging with all relevant stakeholders in the ASM cobalt sector involves taking the time to allow for feedback, to listen, to be open to change, and to have the flexibility to let the consultation outcomes drive next steps. It is important to establish building blocks for recognition and acceptance of mutual expectations, and partnership for lasting change. The consultation is not designed to be a negotiation of the text, it is not intended to solicit “yes” or “no” approvals on a set of expectations, nor is it intended to validate the commercial interests of one stakeholder group. Instead, it aims to create a space where all perspectives can be shared in order to build consensus to the greatest possible extent.

The outcome of the consultation will inform the next version of the Framework, next steps for the Framework development process, and overarching strategy for the Global Battery Alliance’s Cobalt Action Partnership (GBA CAP).

Does the DRC Government support the work of the CAP and the ASM Cobalt Framework?

The Global Battery Alliance’s Cobalt Action Partnership recognizes and respects the authority and sovereignty of the Government of the DRC and engages with it regularly as part of the Framework’s development. The CAP governing body, the CAP Steering Committee, includes a seat designated for the DRC Minister of Mines as of December 2020. The seat transitioned in May 2021 following the appointment of the new Minister. While the new Minister of Mines and ARECOMs are transitioning and embarking on their next steps, CAP continues to engage with DRC government representatives and learn about new priorities in this sector.

To date, dialogue between the CAP Steering Committee and representatives from the DRC Government has confirmed:

• The Government appreciates CAP’s ability to serve as a convening and harmonizing body for the numerous initiatives and private sector actors that are working in this space. Providing clear, uniform messaging from this large group of stakeholders interested in working on issues around ASM cobalt will help the Government in terms of bandwidth, collaboration and messaging.

• The Government sees its role as clearly distinguished from that of EGC. EGC can set its own standards as a private company, but the Government will still issue its own requirements.

• The Government sees the Framework as an opportunity to support improvements in the sector more broadly and is supportive of the consultations and its approach. The Government will continue to follow the GBA CAP’s developments and specifically the consultation.

Why is this a Framework and not a Standard?

The word “Framework” replaced the word “standard” based on feedback received from

stakeholders in mid-2020 when the GBA CAP was initially formed and announced its intention to develop a set of ASM cobalt expectations. Creating a “standard” was a cause of concern for many stakeholders, particularly in the DRC, as it was felt to infer a duplication of existing laws and a mechanism to impose downstream expectations without recognizing the needs or voices of upstream and local actors, nor the progress and other efforts that have taken place to date.

In contrast, the use of the term “Framework” implies a structure that builds upon existing laws and standards and enables the development of partnerships to achieve progressive levels of improvement. The ASM Cobalt Framework is not proposing a new set of laws or standards. Instead, it aims to align existing requirements from a variety of actors into one progressive set of expectations that can be recognized and accepted by actors across the global supply chain.

The Framework can be used to assess a site’s level of performance. Stakeholders can measure and support progressive improvements at mine sites using this Framework, which provides uniform performance metrics. Downstream buyers and regulators can set expectations for the level of performance that they require, among the levels outlined in the Framework, which respects the autonomy and needs of different stakeholder groups. When recommendations are requested for the level of performance to require, the GBA CAP will defer to OECD guidance and best practice that promotes the sustainable inclusion of responsible ASM projects into global supply chains.

How will conflicts and differing opinions be addressed?

Respect for all voices is key to the consultation process and beyond. The position of the Government of the DRC will be recognized and respected and the different viewpoints across stakeholder groups will be considered and valued.

The GBA CAP intends to integrate feedback from stakeholders into the Framework where there is clear consensus first. Points of divergence will be outlined in a public report summarizing the consultation process, and the intention is to discuss these points further at a multi-stakeholder synthesis workshop to be held later in 2021. To note, the precise plans for the steps following the consultation will be informed by the consultation report and will be shared following publication and review of the report in September.

The GBA CAP is aware that there may not be 100% agreement across a diverse, global group of stakeholders, but it is committed to bring together different voices in informed dialogues to facilitate consensus to the extent that it is possible. When consensus cannot be reached, the GBA CAP defers to its Steering Committee, which is made up of representative from the private sector, civil society, and government, including the DRC government.

This consultation is supported by:

Framework Technical Committee

Address resolution of technical feedback and comments as they are received.

• The Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI)

• The Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) as the Project Management Office (PMO) for CAP

• Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA)

CAP Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee

Strategic direction and oversight of the Cobalt Action Partnership, including its goals and objectives and annual workplan.

Approval and oversight of the annual operating budget and annual report.

• The Democratic Republic of the Congo Ministry of Mines (DRC Government)

• Natural Resources Canada (Canadian Government)

• Glencore

• Eurasian Resources Group (ERG)

• Good Shepherd International Foundation

• Pact

CAP Steering Committee Observers

• Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

• Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ)

• United States of America Government, DRC Embassy

• International Labor Organization (ILO)

• International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) / Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF)

CAP Implementing Partners

Act as a focal point for CAP in DRC and coordinate local activities/meetings.

Provide opportunities for sharing, learning, and leveraging collaboration to foster best practices throughout the cobalt value chain.

Contributing to DRC local engagement strategy and activities, and independently facilitating research collaboration, integration of knowledge and learning in the CAP process, support for fundraising.

Identify and scale ASM standard adoption and best practices.

• United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)

• The Responsible Minerals Initiative (Project Management Office / PMO)

• International Institute for Environment and Development (iied)

• Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA)