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21 Feb 2022

Maddie Stone, The Verge

DRC: Investigations reveal poor working conditions at the Kamoto Copper Company, with Glencore's comments

See all tags Allegations

"The EV boom is being fueled by underpaid, underfed cobalt miners - Workers at a Tesla supplier say they can’t get enough food or water on the job", 15 February 2022

Largely owned and operated by...Glencore...Kamoto Copper Company (KCC)...is the largest cobalt-producing mine in the world. Located in the heart of the DRC’s Katangan Copperbelt, each year, the mine churns out over 20,000 tons of the silvery metal used in cell phone, laptop, and electric car batteries...

Historically, large, industrial, company-run cobalt mines like KCC have received less scrutiny. But working conditions there are far from ideal, according to interviews with nearly a dozen current KCC employees and contractors conducted by RAID and The Verge. The employees...described working long hours with limited food and water for pay that often does not cover living expenses. That’s especially true for workers employed through subcontractors, who make up 44 percent of KCC’s 11,000-strong workforce.

Jean, a KCC security guard employed by a subcontractor, earns just $135 a month working 50 hours a week. Another contracted security guard, Marc, makes $300 a month working 66 hours a week. For an average household of two adults and four children, a living wage in the region is $402 per month, according to RAID. “The food is not sufficient. This salary is nothing. There is no promotion at our company,” Marc tells The Verge...“It is very difficult; I can only fulfill around 25 percent of my needs,” Jean said in an interview with RAID. “If there were other jobs available, I wouldn’t be there.”

In response to detailed questions from RAID about the KCC mine, Glencore emphasized its commitment to worker health and safety, respecting human rights, and “good working conditions and fair salaries,” including for KCC’s suppliers and subcontractors. All direct KCC employees are paid above the DRC’s minimum wage of $3.50 USD per day, the company said, and contractors are also expected to provide “fair remuneration” that is “in line with DRC legislation.” Glencore also said that all KCC employees are supplied with personal protective equipment needed for their jobs and that employees and contractors working underground receive “a minimum” of 1.5 liters of water a day, with an additional 1.2 liters provided to those working 12-hour shifts...[Also refers to Tesla, General Motors, Sino-Congolaise des Mines (Sicomines); Société Minière de Deziwa (Somidez); Tenke Fungurume Mining (TFM) and Metalkol].