Huayou Cobalt, China’s biggest cobalt producer, has said that it will stop buying from individuals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is after mounting pressure from human rights groups as well as its customers who have, on numerous occasions over the years, raised concerns about child labor in the DRC's informal mining sector.

The Chinese company, which is also one of the top worldwide suppliers of cobalt, was also named as a defendant along with several Big Tech companies including Apple, Tesla, Alphabet, Dell, and Microsoft in a class-action lawsuit filed during 2019 on behalf of 14 families of children who accused them of benefiting from cobalt child mining.

“In order to ensure the daily operation of Huayou Cobalt, we can only temporarily stop sourcing artisanal cobalt until relevant standards can be recognised and supported by the whole industry. At the meantime, Huayou Cobalt is committed to continue to support the cobalt formalisation projects.”

Child labor in the DRC's cobalt mines

Largest cobalt supplier globally

The DRC plays a pivotal role in the electronic devices and electric vehicles supply chain. It is responsible for supplying approximately 50% of the world’s cobalt which is used in the making of modern jet engines, smartphones, and electric cars. However, the country somehow continues to remain among the world’s poorest.

World cobalt reserves as of 2017. | Statista

The DRC is also the main supplier globally of another mineral key in the making electronics, coltan.

As part of it, Huayou, trying to eliminate child labor out of its supply chain and mines it sources cobalt from in the DRC, it has said it will be working to assist in formalizing small-scale and artisanal mining in the country.

Among its customer, to whom it supplies cobalt, it counts LG Chem of South Korea, CATL in China, BYD in China, as well as Volkswagen. Despite this move which could affect its supplies of cobalt, Huayou still expects to produce 30,000 tons of cobalt in 2020.


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