Live AMA with Laura Gerritsen 13th Jun, from 17:00 CEST (UTC+02:00)

Hey Stefan,

thanks for pointing this out. Indeed, we realised our mistake a couple of minutes after posting, so we corrected it. After all, it’s still Tuesday! :wink:


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Let’s go! Me and Laura are ready for your questions!


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.

Hey. Artisanal mining is probably a difficult field for a supply chain. Now you have seen the conditions in this area. In your opinion, what is the best corporate tool to avoid social problems?

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.

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Hi Laura,
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.

Thank you and keep up the good work!


Hi Laura and Daniel,
Thanks for doing this AMA!
Can you already share some possible fields of improvement that are being pursued for FP3? :slight_smile:

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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!


@anon14889930 and @rainer_zufall, remember the Nov 2015 meetup in Vienna? :wink:

Click to find out more.

@anon14889930 I was wondering whether your engagement for Fairphone is based on a personal religious believe. Do you practice any religion?


Hi Stefan, thanks for that question :slight_smile: I must say I get that question a lot when travelling in African countries! However, I am not practicing a specific religion - do you?


A question that came in through facebook

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.

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Another question that came in through facebook:

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?


Thank you for your answer! :slight_smile:

That’s interesting! I don’t think that anyone has ever asked me about my believes when travelling through Europe. Funnily though, not long ago, a German sociologist asked me about it via a forum PM. :smiley:

Yes, I believe in Jesus and I’m active in my local parish. I think this is also part of my motivation to get involved into the Fairphone movement. :slight_smile:


Hi Emma - yes for example in the DRC there are quite some areas where different armed groups are active, especially in the East but also in other parts of the DRC. I have not often felt really unsafe travelling there (although it can be) because we always connect with many local partners and always have a local guide. We do monitor the local situation carefully on a daily basis when travelling there as situations can change quickly!


You are welcome! We’re continuing to improve and support the Fairphone two, and with that our material programs. Among others, cobalt is one of the other materials we will focus on in the coming years (you can also see our scoping study for more information, and we’ll continue to build on the recent trip to on the one hand develop local initiatives and improvements and on the other develop a more transparent supply chain.

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From facebook:

Hi, I’ve just done some study of DRC and my lecturer has helped me with a few questions! I am still a little confused between coltan and cobalt. Is coltan in your phones? If so, where is it sourced? How can we be assured that the coltan miners are receiving a fair pay? How safe are the workers collecting the coltan? Is the company paying a fair price and their share of tax to the Congolese government? Thanks, and thank-you for the work you are doing and the word you are spreading!

Good questions! Coltan and Cobalt are two very different materials. Coltan (a combination of Columbite + Tantalum) is for example in little capacitors in the Fairphone - to store energy. Cobalt is used to manufacture battery cells for the Fairphone battery. Coltan or Tantalum in the DRC is mostly found in the eastern Kivu provinces, whereas Cobalt is predominantly in southern province Katanga. For tantalum and the Fairphone 2, we support conflict-free sourcing initiatives in the DRC, meaning we can assure it is not financing conflict and armed groups in the area. However when it comes to a fair pay, safe working conditions, etc., there is a lot to be improved and more work is to be done there. Therefore Fairphone is continuously engaged in discussions with industry players, our supply chain and organisations that work on the ground in the DRC, to steer improvements.


Facebook question:

I would be interested to learn about the working conditions in the mines plz. Thanks for being so transparent about your activities. Much appreciated!

Hi! The conditions in mine sites differ greatly. In the very artisanal sites labour is done almost if not completely manually, with tunnels that are constructed without many safety measures, there is (almost) no protective equipment etc. So in short - the conditions are very dangerous. It does employ many people so it can be a large share of community income though. Other more developed mine sites, for example semi-industrial sites, are already a lot better as they have equipment, safer tunnels, higher production and better income for miners. On the other side are the large industrial sites, that are very large mines (really huge open pits sometimes) where (almost) everything is mechanised- digging is done with trucks for example, transport is in bulk and the processes need much fewer staff for their production.


Hey all,

thanks for you questions. We will now retire for a well-deserved after-work coffee in the sun! :slight_smile:

If you did not have time for this AMA or were just in the process of typing when I was closing the topic, feel free to send your question to until Thursday, 15.06. at 5pm.

All the best from Amsterdam,
Daniel and Laura