In marking the United Nations (UN) Week of Action against child labour, from June 10 – 17, diversified natural resources group Eurasian Resources Group (ERG) reflects that it has enabled thousands of children to leave mining activities, through its partnership with nonprofit organisation the Good Shepherd International Foundation (GSIF) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in 2020.
ERG’s partnership with GSIF in the DRC included ensuring that 3 425 children in Kanina left the worst forms of child labour to receive an education and protection from unsafe environments.
In addition, ERG has contributed funding for the Bon Pasteur Child Protection Centre, in Kanina, since 2017, which is supporting up to 1 000 children from artisanal and small-scale mining communities.
It has also committed to support the construction of a new child protection centre in the town of Tshala.
This is part of the group’s efforts to eradicate child labour from the cobalt mining sector in the DRC, as well as to support civil society organisations to implement major social initiatives.
ERG CEO Benedikt Sobotka says that eradicating child labour is of “paramount importance” to ensure a safe, sustainable future for mining communities in the DRC. “We are pleased to have made progress in our efforts to achieve this over the past year; however, we recognise that much still needs to be done in the industry.”
To this end, ERG recently submitted an action pledge in support of the UN’s designation of 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.
He adds that ERG is “fully committed” to ending child and forced labour and fostering safe and quality jobs in the regions in which it operates.
Further, during 2020, ERG also funded a major one-year partnership with international development organisation Pact, with the Children Out of Mining – Northern Kolwezi programme supporting 120 miners aged between 15 to 17 in northern Kolwezi, near ERG’s Metalkol RTR tailings retreatment project.
In addition, the miner also helped these children gain skills in automotive mechanics, masonry, carpentry, welding and sewing. As part of the programme, over 67 000 community members received awareness training on the risks associated with child labour.
RESPONSIBLE BATTERY SUPPLY CHAIN
As a founding member of the Global Battery Alliance (GBA), ERG has participated in driving changes in the battery value chain with other public and private members, including the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, BASF, the World Bank Group and Volkswagen.
The GBA has produced a multiyear roadmap towards 2030 based on ten principles to which all of its members commit, including principle number eight – which targets the immediate and urgent elimination of child and forced labour, strengthening communities and respecting the human rights of those employed by the value chain.
To achieve this goal, ERG is supporting the GBA in developing the “Battery Passport”, which ERG describes as a type of quality seal on a global digital lifecycle platform for sharing battery data and ensuring batteries are at no point connected with child labour.
ERG has also continued its work within the steering committee for Cobalt Action Partnership – a collaborative GBA initiative for eliminating child and forced labour from the cobalt value chain.
Further, ERG was one of the first contributors to the Fund for the Prevention of Child Labour in Mining Communities – an initiative of the GBA, administered by Unicef – which is aiming to raise $21-million over the next three years to address the root causes of child labour in the DRC.
Internally, ERG has bolstered its work to deliver assurance around the cobalt it produces at its Metalkol RTR operation, now the world’s second-largest standalone cobalt producer and a major producer of copper. This included the operationalisation of its landmark Clean Cobalt Framework, as well as a commitment to undergo the Responsible Minerals Initiative’s Responsible Minerals Assurance Process.
ERG has also joined forces with other electric vehicle (EV) supply chain majors, including Glencore, China Molybdenum Company and Umicore, to pilot Re|Source – a blockchain solution to trace responsibly produced cobalt from the mine to EV.
ERG says this should improve sustainable practices for cobalt mining and processing, further helping tackle child labour in the mining sector.