Huayou Cobalt, China’s biggest cobalt producer, is under scrutiny for buying its cobalt from individuals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The firm recently issued out a press release stating that it will cease individual purchasing following pressure from customers and rights groups concerned about child labour in the informal mining sector.
According to local press, Huayou, one of the top global suppliers of the metal used in batteries for electric cars and mobile devices, has faced growing scrutiny in recent years over human rights violations in the DRC, which accounts for more than two-thirds of global output. It was named alongside technology companies including Apple, Dell and Microsoft in a US class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of families of children killed or injured while mining cobalt in the central African nation.
Responding to the above allegations, Huayou has said it has cut child labour out of its supply chain and is working to help formalize small-scale mining in the DRC through efforts to improve safety and better trace cobalt.
Despite the pullback, Huayou aims to produce 30,000 tons of cobalt this year, mainly from its industrial mines in the DRC, but also through recycling used batteries. It is also looking to raise US $870m from a private placement of shares to expand nickel production in Indonesia.
Shanghai-listed Huayou is a key supplier to the electric vehicle industry, providing cobalt to battery makers LG Chem of South Korea and CATL of China, as well as Chinese carmaker BYD and Germany’s Volkswagen.