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Cordaid NL
Extractives Democratic Republic of Congo

Blog: How can we ensure that all the right people benefit from mining?

Do you ever stop to think where it all comes from? The battery in your laptop and smartphone, the metals used in your car and the gold and gemstones in jewelry: the materials that manufacturers use for many of our favorite objects and utensils often come from poor and conflict-affected areas.

This blog is written by Dicky de Morrée, Cordaid’s Policy Advisor.

The people living in those areas often miss out on the benefits from these industries or even become victims of exploitation and other violations of human rights. That is why Cordaid calls for responsible mining.

Last week, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) organized the 12th Forum on Responsible Minerals. More than 1000 participants from all over the world, from governments, the private sector, and civil society have come together in Paris to discuss the OECD guidelines for responsible mining in conflict-affected areas.

Human rights violations

The OECD guidance comprises a five-step approach that – if followed correctly by each company in the supply chain – should avoid being complicit to human rights violations committed against local communities and workers in mines and production facilities.

At the Forum, local organizations from Congo and other relevant countries question the technical nature of the discussions and express concerns about creating a paper reality without any real impact on the lives of ordinary people living in the communities surrounding the mine.

Responsible Mining Index

That’s where the Responsible Mining Index comes in. This initiative assesses the performance of 30 large-scale mining companies on economic, environmental, social and governance aspects, both at the level of the company as a whole as well as at the mining sites operated by these companies.

At the OECD Forum the first assessment report, the Responsible Mining Index 2018, was launched, in which Cordaid features as one of the founding members.

The results presented in the report make it more than clear that there is still a lot of room for improvement. When we look, for example, at the indicator related to community benefits at the mine-site, we see that out of 127 mining sites assessed, only 7 have a verifiable, significant result, while 103 have a score of zero, meaning either that they have not achieved any result on this indicator or that there is no information available.

Real impact

So, Cordaid can only encourage the team behind the Responsible Mining Index to continue their work with these 30 companies and even expand to other companies. This will make companies see the real impact they are having (or not) on the lives of those who are most affected by mining operations and help them to take steps to make their supply chains more responsible.

The outcomes of the index could also strengthen governments in designing rules and regulations for those aspects that do not progress sufficiently if left to the voluntary measures taken by the industry.

Let’s hope that very soon we will be able to enjoy our electronic gadgets guilt-free and that all the right people will be benefitting from this immensely profitable industry.

Featured image: Cobalt, a mineral mined in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, is an essential component of the batteries that power our phones and laptops. Photo: www.images-of-elements.com/ [CC BY 1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.