Kolwezi and London, 31 August 2018

Monthly Better Cobalt Stakeholder Update (August 2018)

Dear colleagues,

Welcome to our August newsletter. It has been another busy month for the Better Cobalt team as we continue the implementation phase of our landmark pilot initiative.

Better Cobalt uses technology and trained field agents to monitor cobalt production and trade to improve social impact and responsible practice. Through the pilot we are also supporting the exploration of new, transparent and secure cobalt supplies which will benefit the market and mining communities.

Your chance to engage with the Better Cobalt team

In addition to this update, we will be hosting a webinar on 12 September to give stakeholders a wider briefing on the progress of Better Cobalt. Participants will also have the chance to ask the team questions during the session.

Sign up for our webinar here.

12 September, 17.00 CET.

World’s first digital data from ASM cobalt

We are delighted to announce a new milestone both for the project and for the ASM cobalt sector. The Better Cobalt system has recorded the first ever batch of cobalt ASM site-level digital due diligence data.

This is a first for our pilot and has never been previously achieved in the history of ASM cobalt in the DRC.

Fortune Magazine visit the DRC

In the latest media coverage of DRC ASM cobalt, Vivienne Walt and Sebastian Meyer of Fortune Magazine visited the DRC last month. Their report was published recently and featured the Better Cobalt Initiative as one of the key long-term solutions to addressing the challenges of responsible DRC cobalt production and trade.

From testing to regular reporting

With the August data and system testing phase coming to an end, we will go into regular monitoring and data collection, analysis, and reporting from September 1st.

The Better Cobalt Systems Team is currently in the process of finalizing the data points for the weekly production monitoring as well as a specific questionnaire with which to interview children where these are identified on the mine sites.

The Systems Team is also currently finalising the dashboard through which the data will be shared with funders and, if agreed upon, wider stakeholders. We will share a demo dashboard with the funders shortly and the wider community later in in September.

Understanding how much miners are earning

A key objective for Better Cobalt and a key value add to stakeholders’ general understanding of ASM dynamics is information on earnings and their distribution along the upstream supply chain.

Beyond anecdotal evidence and ad hoc (limited timeframe) research studies, no one has been able to shed light - at scale - on cobalt earning dynamics and distribution and over a scientifically relevant timeframe along the upstream supply chain.

Better Cobalt monitoring has been adapted to capture this critical information and monitoring for these aspects was part of the testing in August.

Wider community monitoring

A particular added value of Better Cobalt is the ability to gain an understanding of development dynamics “outside the fence”, i.e. beyond the mining operation. This is where we can measure impact and offer the data needed to direct positive development interventions where they are most needed.

On August 20th, Better Cobalt started with a pilot census of all miners and members of communities surrounding the mine sites. It is projected that the pilot census will take two to four weeks with a further pilot census taking place in three months. This data will help build a comprehensive picture of the development context around Better Cobalt sites.

Child labor remediation partner Better Cobalt will produce new data, not just on child labor risks and incidents (where these occur), but also on the reasons, motivations, and mitigation options. Most importantly, though, the digital record of children identified as having worked on mine sites allows for the direct transfer of these children into child protection programs. Better Cobalt is able to assist cobalt supply chain participants in the process of identifying a child labor remediation partner. 

Project expansion With operationalization of the initial Better Cobalt pilot, we continue to scope possible new ASM sites to bring on to the system and a team will be working exclusively on this in the month of September.

From September 1st we are planning to undertake a 4-month trial implementation on an industrial site in Haut-Katanga to adapt our solution for the LSM sector.


Better Cobalt is in the current pilot phase entirely funded by cobalt supply chain participants in the upstream, midstream and downstream.

This is a first and major evolution in upstream data work, which was historically a donor and foundations supported work area, before it got traction in the private sector through Better Sourcing.

We have received widespread acknowledgment and encouragement on the basis of our impact and progress, and we are very grateful for the initial funding received from the private sector to deliver the data needed to prove continuous improvement in cobalt on a pilot basis, while also allowing new sources of cobalt supply to be brought to market.

With our pilot funders from the private sector demonstrating commitment to upstream data and continuous improvement, we strongly encourage the donor community and foundations not to miss this opportunity.

In order to scale, we need more private sector partners, donors and foundations to support Better Cobalt.

If you would like to support Better Cobalt, contact us now.

©2018 Better Cobalt