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30 Sep 2016

Todd C. Frankel, Washington Post

Companies respond to questions about their cobalt supply chains

Follows article The cobalt pipeline Tracing the path from deadly hand-dug mines in Congo to consumers’ phones and laptops. Includes responses/non-responses to the Washington Post's investigation by Congo DongFang Mining/Hyuayou Cobalt and Apple

Huayou Cobalt, parent company of Congo DongFang Mining, admits to having “insufficient awareness of supply chain management.”... it did not know that buying artisanal cobalt “would increase directly or indirectly child labor and human rights” risks. It has hired an outside company to conduct supply-chain due diligence, with a report on this topic expected later this year. It is also working with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers and Exporters to develop guidelines for responsible mineral supply chains. The company said that to just avoid artisanal cobalt “is actually an irresponsible business act, which would very possibly aggravate the local poverty in cobalt mining regions and worsen the livelihood of local legal artisanal miners.”

Apple said it is committed to working with Huayou to clean up the supply chain and to addressing underlying issues such as extreme poverty...plans to increase scrutiny of how its cobalt is obtained but does not want to find remedies aimed at just “making the supply chain look pretty.” Starting in 2017, Apple will internally treat cobalt as a conflict mineral, requiring all cobalt refiners to agree to outside supply-chain audits and conduct risk assessments...also will soon, for the first time, include cobalt in an annual update of due-diligence efforts for its conflict-minerals supply chain. This goes beyond what current OECD guidelines call for. Apple also supports adding cobalt to the U.S. conflict-minerals law, which currently requires American firms to try to verify the source of tin, tungsten, titanium and gold used in their products.

Other responses by LG Chem, Ford, General Motors, Samsung SDI, Samsung, BMW, Amazon.com., Pulead, Amperex Technology (ATL), L&F Material, Hunan Shanshan.