Case Study: Artisanal Mining at the Mutoshi Mine in Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of the Congo

The pilot artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) formalization project at the Mutoshi mine in Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, is an example of how well-managed community relations reduce the need for complex security arrangements. Prior to the Mutoshi ASM Formalization project, the mining operating company, Chemaf, experienced some extremely violent interactions with the local mining community, including a situation in which senior Chemaf managers were held hostage by artisanal miners.

With the provision of land dedicated for artisanal mining on the Chemaf concession, as well as the development of the Mutoshi ASM production standards that were implemented with the help of the local mining cooperative (COMIAKOL), community relations started to improve. 5,000 miners had access to the Mutoshi pilot, which ensured safe working conditions through a semi-automatic extraction method and open pit mining. Chemaf’s mechanical preparation of the mining sites with earth-moving equipment has made the use of dangerous tunnels or deep pits unnecessary. Workers have worked in shifts limited to 8 hours, and have been provided with personal protective equipment. Further unsafe situations are addressed by rules on alcohol, entry of children and re-assignment of pregnant workers. 

The pilot formalization project was a close collaboration between the site’s buyer, Trafigura, who initiated it; the mining operating company Chenaf; the local cooperative on the site; and an external NGO and a sustainability specialist that acted as third-party assessors. The close cooperation was key to successful implementation of the ASM production standards: through involvement of these various parties’ close collaboration, communication and trust-building was possible.  

Mutoshi closed with the onset of the Covid pandemic, but its lessons will be scaled at several new pilot sites. These new sites are supported by the Entreprise Générale du Cobalt, a new State entity that has the monopoly over buying and selling ASM cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

The Entreprise Générale du Cobalt published responsible sourcing standards for ASM cobalt in March 2021, which were informed by the lessons at Mutoshi.