The London Metal Exchange is investigating whether cobalt mined by children is being traded in London after members raised concerns about a Chinese supplier.
The exchange is also surveying members to ask how they will guarantee “responsible sourcing”, which it says is part of a “broader push” that it was pursuing independently.
Amnesty International investigators have traced cobalt from small independent mines that use child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo into electronic goods made by famous brands, via Chinese trading companies.
OK. No doubt that it happens as well. The question being, well, what do we do about it?
One answer is nothing.
Another is that we push out the blood minerals legislation to cobalt. That would be a very bad idea indeed. The system designed by the idiots currently costs 100 times what we were told it would.
So, is there a better system?
The LME said in an email to its members that it “would expect that any specific concerns will be addressed as part of our existing efforts”. A spokeswoman said: “We have strict guidelines and criteria for brands [producers] wishing to list their products on the LME. Any evidence of sub-standard practices that fall short of our requirements would be investigated by the LME and action would be taken.
Yes, there is. The LME doesn’t just trade a specific metal. The producer has to meet certain standards. And they really do go check the consistency and so on. Further, being and LME “brand” is something that is valuable. So, incorporate the industry smelter controls into the LME standard (the industry is, with those blood minerals, actually rather good at checking the origin of ore etc for the covered materials) and we’re done. We’ve got economics on our side. People using the child produced material will get a lower price. Users who are concerned about child labour can buy an LME brand knowing that they’re not eploiting.
We’re done aren’t we?