I am Laura Gerritsen, Value chain program manager at Fairphone.
Next Tuesday, 13th of June, from 5pm on, you can Ask Me Anything
A little about me:
After finishing my political science, conflict and human rights master I started working in East Africa in the legal aid sector. There I traveled on and off between the Netherlands and Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya, a fantastic, hectic period! As soon as I heard about Fairphone I was hooked - and joined the small team in 2013. Since then I have been doing a variety of stuff here (as a start up is always busy), but am now completely dedicated to the Value chain of Fairphone, focusing most of my time on material supply chains or mining. In practice this means I connect to a wide variety of people, internally as well as externally, including my colleagues from operations, communications and other, as well as NGOs, manufacturing partners, mine-workers - you name it! - to explore how we can make our phone fairer step-by-step.
Next Tuesday, 13 June, I will answer any questions you have to the best of my possibilities and with the help from the forum moderators who will be helping me to keep the discussion organized.
Some basic guidelines to manage expectations:
This is live, so it might take some time for us to read your question and come back. Discourse auto-refreshes the screen, so no need for reloading yourself.
Allow room for others and only ask a second question if you feel others have had their turn as well.
If you see someone else asked the same question: upvote it by clicking on the little heart!
The stuff I know most about is our value chain. But you can also ask about my personal life, sports and how I like traveling.
I am very much looking forward to do the first Fairphone Value Chain AMA ever!
Hi There! To start it off - we received a question on Instagram today on: ‘how much cobalt is extracted daily?’
Since much of the cobalt is mined in the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) sector, there are no official records that give us a complete or detailed picture. Overall, we know that more than 50% of the global world production of Cobalt is mined in the DRC, mainly in the Southern province Katanga.
Hi Tim! Thank you for your question. Indeed, ASM has complex problems that also differ per region and context - so there is no ‘one size fits all tool’ to address the issues in ASM mining. A tool that is often used in the industry though are the OECD due diligence guidance for responsible mineral sourcing that give guidance to companies on what steps to take to identify and address risks in their supply chains. It also encourages companies not to avoid artisanal mining altogether but find effective ways to improve the conditions in ASM sector.
It was interesting to read about your recent visit to different cobal mining sites in the DRC. I was wondering: are there specific lessons from the conflict-free supply chains that Fairphone has already ‘achieved’ (it’s an ongoing process, of course) for other minerals, that you are now applying to the sourcing of cobalt?
I would also find it really interesting to hear your perspective about the steps other companies, like Apple, are taking with respect to improving the transparency about conflict minerals.
Hi Emma, thank you for your question! And indeed, there are some lessons learned from the conflict mineral programs and that could be applied to the cobalt sector as well. For example, one of the issues we found that the supply chains from ASM cobalt mines are quite opaque and there is currently very little tracking and/or traceability in place to know where ASM mined material is supplied to. This would be one step to start improvements with ASM mines, and lessons learned from tracking systems in tin and tantalum can be applied. However, that being said - there are also quite some differences as the industrial sector of cobalt mining is very large, there is little land where ASM cobalt mining can take place and there are specific problems related to the prices miners receive.
It is encouraging to see that companies seem to become more open about these issues and off course, every step that is being done to really work on local improvements is welcomed a lot by us!
When you are visiting mines are the owners aware you are coming or not? Im talking about the mines that have already an agreement with you. I just want to say that I was asking not criticize but to get more information on your approach. I ordered the fairphone 2 and I’m waiting to get it soon! Keep it up!
Yes, we work with local partners and make sure our visits are announced and agreed upon. We believe that appearing unannounced will not help us establish good relationships locally. None of the mines we visited are mines we directly source from. The materials from the mines go through many hands before they end up with us. So the visit was to get a better understanding of what our options are if we ask our partners to source their materials in a fairer way. Therefore we wanted to visit as many mines as possible and we can only achieve that if we get full understanding and cooperation from the mines themselves. Announcing our arrival is needed to achieve that.
How are the land rights? Ownership, leased, informal, illegal? Both for large and small scale. And what do people around the mines say about it? Do they see benefits/dangers/disadvantages (e.g. income from a relative, health hazards, environmental damage, more secondary business opportunities…)?
Which minerals are sourced in the mines you visit?
Nice idea to ask for questions. Take care! And don’t get stuck in the mud.
It varies a lot. A lot of the land is allocated for large-scale mining, meaning a company (often foreign) gets an official license / concession from the Congolese government. While these operations are ‘legal’, it has happened in the past that during wartime, other self-proclaimed authorities also issued “official” permissions for the same land, leading to a lot of confusion on the ground. In addition, there is a lot of “informal” or illegal mining taking place, especially by ASM miners, meaning the mineworkers don’t have official permission to access and mine in a certain area, but since it’s close to their home or because there is no control at the sites, they go there anyway (often they feel ASM miners should be and are entitled since it’s historically “theirs”!). In-between, there are many instances where the land is officially allocated to foreign companies, but unofficially the foreign companies allow individual miners to dig in certain parts of it. Long answer, but there are so many different models you see on the ground!
A slightly more personal question: we’re often talking about these different minerals as ‘conflict minerals’ in ‘conflict areas’. Do you feel safe travelling to these mining areas? How do you make your trips as safe as possible?