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ERG marks progress in eliminating child labour from mining

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Global Mining Review,

To mark the UN’s ‘Week of Action’ Against Child Labour from 10 – 17 June, Eurasian Resources Group (ERG), a leading diversified natural resources group, reflects on the progress it has made in helping eradicate child labour from the cobalt mining sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the past year. The Group has continued supporting civil society organisations to implement major social initiatives, made new pledges and commitments and collaborated with international partners on innovative solutions to ensure value chain transparency.

Benedikt Sobotka, CEO of Eurasian Resources Group, said: “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. We are fully committed to ending child and forced labour and fostering safe and quality jobs in the regions in which we operate.”

In 2020, ERG’s partnership with non-profit organisation The Good Shepherd International Foundation (GSIF) in DRC enabled thousands of children to leave mining activities. This included ensuring that 3425 children in Kanina, DRC left the worst forms of child labour to receive an education and protection from unsafe environments. ERG has contributed funding for the Bon Pasteur Child Protection Centre in Kanina since 2017, which is supporting up to 1000 children from artisanal and small scale mining (ASM) communities, and has committed to support the construction of a new child protection centre in the town of Tshala.

During 2020, ERG also funded a major 1 year partnership with international development organisation Pact. The ‘Children Out of Mining – Northern Kolwezi’ programme supported 120 miners aged 15 – 17 in Northern Kolwezi near Metalkol RTR, and helped them gain skills in auto-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.

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 Co-operation and Development (OECD), BASF, the World Bank Group, and Volkswagen. The GBA has produced a multi-year roadmap towards 2030 based on 10 principles to which all of its members commit, including Principle #8: “Immediately and urgently eliminating 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, 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.

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 US$21 million over the next 3 years to address the root causes of child labour in 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 (RMAP).

The Group has also joined forces with other electric vehicle supply chain majors, including Glencore, CMOC, and Umicore, to pilot Re|Source, a blockchain solution to trace responsibly produced cobalt from the mine to the electric car. This should improve sustainable practices for cobalt mining and processing, further helping tackle child labour in the mining sector.

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