LME to get tougher on cobalt companies with ties to the DRC

The London Metal Exchange (LME), the world’s biggest market for industrial metals, is stepping up efforts to make sure cobalt traded on the exchange is not mined using child labour, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Starting next year, the LME will demand all companies that get at least 25% of their metal from small-scale mines in the DRC to be subject of a professional audit, Financial Times reports.

Starting in 2019, it will demand firms that get at least 25% of their metal from small-scale mines in the DRC to undergo a professional audit.

The decision comes after several reports published last year said minors were being exploited to extract the coveted mineral, used in the making of batteries that power electric vehicles (EV) and high tech devices.

It also comes after members of the century-old trading platform raised concerns last summer about questionable companies joining the exchange. According to the British paper, the worries mostly centred on a Chinese company named Yantai Cash Industrial, which first appeared on the LME in the third quarter of 2017, and which is believed to sell untraceable supplies of the metal.

Amnesty International has said that children as young as seven can be found scavenging for rocks containing cobalt in DRC, which holds about 49% of the world’s known reserves of that metal.

The group says there is enough evidence that the cobalt those minors dig is entering the supply chains of some of the world's biggest brands.

Those and other allegations have put pressure on companies such as Tesla and Apple to trace the cobalt they use, with the computer and electronics maker leading the way in terms of transparency.