DRC seeks Glencore to end export of raw cobalt

The Deputy Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has told Swiss delegates at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow that her country will no longer accept the export of its raw materials, notably cobalt, by commodities giant Glencore.

“[The raw materials] belong to us,” said Eve Bazaiba, who is also the DRC’s environment minister, in an interview with news platform Geneva Solutions. “They will now have to be processed locally.”

Bazaiba said the DRC wanted a more equal trade partnership in raw materials with Switzerland. She transmitted this message to the head of the Swiss delegation at COP26, Franz Perrez, when they met for a bilateral meeting. Perrez confirmed to news agency Keystone-SDA that the subject had been discussed but did not elaborate.

Working conditions

“Cobalt cannot be exported, transformed and manufactured into batteries outside the country, while we are reduced to selling our teeth to afford a green vehicle,” said Bazaiba.

Glencore operates two cobalt mines in the DRC. The country supplies more than 60% of the world’s cobalt, a by-product of copper and nickel mining that forms an essential component of rechargeable batteries powering smartphones, laptops and electric cars. Artisanal and small-scale mining of cobalt has been linked to unsafe working conditions and the use of child labour.

In her meeting with Perrez at the climate conference, Bazaiba said she also pressed Switzerland to convince other rich developed countries to honour the “polluter pays” principle, so that funds can be made available to help developing countries like the DRC fight global warming.

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