Welcome to the second edition of the LME’s Sustainability Spotlight newsletter, a resource where we aim to provide a succinct and informative read for all those interested in sustainability within base metals, as well as an update on the LME’s sustainability strategy. Within each newsletter, we invite a leading expert in their field to offer insights on significant topics related to sustainability.
In this issue of the Sustainability Spotlight, Assheton Carter and Monica Gichuhi from The Impact Facility expound on the crucial topic of women working within artisanal or small-scale mining (“ASM”), and highlight some of the heightened gender specific risks that can be particularly pervasive.
Read the preceding issue of the Sustainability Spotlight, and read on to understand more about the LME’s sustainability agenda.
What's happening at the LME?
Since the publication of the inaugural Sustainability Spotlight, there has been significant progress within the LME’s sustainability initiatives.
On 31 August, after a period of comprehensive system testing, the LME successfully launched LMEpassport. LMEpassport is our new electronic certificates of analysis (“CoA”) and digital credentials register that enhances the quality of assurance documentation and supports a broad range of metal sustainability certifications and disclosures electronically. Find out more about the operational side of LMEpassport.
LMEpassport’s taxonomy for sustainability
In addition to working with those involved on the compliance side of our responsible sourcing requirements, we have now partnered with charities Pact and The Impact Facility to fund two responsible sourcing projects. We have donated US$1.7 million to these two projects which have the aim of tackling child labour and children’s rights issues in mining communities directly affected by these responsible sourcing concerns. To find out more about these partnerships and the charities involved, please read our press release.
LMEpassport's taxonomy for sustainability
As the sustainability team, we are particularly focused on the possibilities that the LMEpassport platform offers in respect of sustainability. We see the enhanced transparency facilitated by LMEpassport as a truly exciting development, and it is our next step in enabling centralised visibility of a range of market-supported and verifiable standards and disclosures, which producers of LME deliverable metal can use to showcase their sustainability credentials on a voluntary basis.
A crucial feature of enabling sustainability transparency on LMEpassport is our sustainability taxonomy, developed with the help of our market stakeholders. This taxonomy gives LMEpassport users a straightforward categorisation pathway, making it easier to navigate the wide range of sustainability-related focus areas across metals. The four principal categories are environmental, social, governance and multi-dimensional (certifications and disclosures that encapsulate two or more of the “ESG” spectrum).
Disclosures permitted via LMEpassport
We will only permit disclosure of datasets or certifications which have strong industry support and which include adequate audit or validation requirements and documentation. We know that the metals industry (and, in particular, its trade associations) has already created a rich set of standards and certifications which will meet these criteria, allowing important information to be disclosed in a manner which is trusted by the markets we serve. You can read the full list of the LME sustainability related disclosures and certifications available to use on LMEpassport. If you are a producer of LME-listed brands, we’d love to talk to you about listing your sustainability credentials on the platform – please get in touch at sustainability@LME.com.
Public LMEpassport brand disclosure sustainability page (hosted on LME.com)
Sustainability information uploaded to LMEpassport (on a voluntary basis) will be shown publically on the LME Sustainability web page. The first publication of this data is expected to be displayed at the beginning of Q4 2021. This data will be free and accessible for all LME website users.
To coincide with LMEpassport’s launch, we will be running a three-part series of training webinars designed to walk potential users of LMEpassport through its key features – administration, record creation and sustainability. Watch these webinars on demand.
Within this issue, we would like to highlight progress on alignment-assessed standards for Track A, as well as the first recognised equivalent certification programme for the ISO requirements. On 2 August 2021, the LME approved the Copper Mark as the first ISO equivalent certification programme. The LME also conditionally approved the ITA Tin Code (Standard 7.3 Responsible Sourcing) assessed with the ITA-RMI Assessment Criteria as the first Track A alignment assessed standard. When a standard is considered to be “conditionally approved”, the condition for overall approval is that the standard also passes the implementation portion of the alignment assessment. We expect at least nine more standards to apply in the coming months. To see a full list of all approved ISO equivalencies, alignment assessors, auditors, and Track A standards, click here (content has been removed).
The responsible sourcing team has continued to engage with brands and other key stakeholders. Learn more about the LME’s responsible sourcing requirements.
September’s market insight – A smile and a hammer. The fortitude of women in artisanal mining
The Impact Facility is a global sustainability organisation that seeks to bring economic and environmental empowerment to ASM communities. The LME has partnered with The Impact Facility to fund a responsible sourcing project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The aim of the project is to provide support to existing schools in the DRC, encouraging attendance and raising the quality of care for students. Find out more about the LME’s responsible sourcing charitable donations.
Assheton is founder, trustee and executive director at The Impact Facility and is considered a business sustainability expert, a social entrepreneur and a responsible investment advisor. For the last 25 years, he has focused on helping businesses create value that benefits their shareholders, communities and wider society. He is also the CEO of TDi Sustainability, a project development and impact investment firm established to support businesses in a range of industries develop sustainably.
Monica is a strategic advisor to The Impact Facility. Monica advocates for responsible sourcing of minerals from Africa and has established various initiatives to link mines to market in the gemstones supply chain. As a consultant in the mining sector, she works to support artisanal and small-scale miners on responsible mining methods, trade and financing solutions, promote value addition and enhance traceability in the minerals supply chain with a keen focus on the inclusion and participation of women.
ASM and the LME responsible sourcing requirements
Data from the World Bank suggests that around 100 million people depend on artisanal scale mining globally.
When formulating our responsible sourcing requirements, the LME made it a core principle to ensure that there was no discrimination between large-scale and artisanal or small-scale mining. The LME fundamentally respects the rights of communities to benefit from those mineral resources with which their land has been endowed, and we believe that artisanal / small-scale mining, properly governed, can bring great development opportunities to disadvantaged communities (similar to large-scale mining where, when properly governed, it can bring significant economic benefit to the countries from which resources are extracted).
Both forms of mining clearly carry differing, but equally important, risks. In acknowledging these risks, we do not favour any specific form of mining; rather, we acknowledge that risk assessments must be tailored to the circumstances. Therefore, our Responsible Sourcing Policy aims to provide equally meaningful protections against risks arising from both large-scale mining and ASM, and we support the formalisation of ASM by providing all producers sufficient time to implement the responsible sourcing requirements.
A smile and a hammer. The fortitude of women in artisanal miningSeated on warm boulders pounding away at a pile of stones under the sweltering hot African sun is Afiya Ooro with several other ladies. As a mother of five, carer for her own parents, and a homekeeper, Afiya is busy, but must also find time to work at the artisanal mining site to supplement her family’s income. Once in a while the women break into a conversation, but mostly they work in silence – not wearing gloves, helmets or dust masks – creating a melody with the continuous thumping of their hammers. Afiya explains that the rocks are heated slightly to make it easier to break by hand after extraction from the artisanal and small-scale mining pits.
Gender roles in ASM
At the ASM site where Afiya works, labour is clearly divided between the sexes. Whether based on patriarchal societal bias or consideration of physical abilities, it’s evident there is the work for women and the work for men. The male roles are more dominant as they work at producing shafts and number more than the women. The men take their ore to the women who have set themselves up in a slightly raised location within the mining area so they can have a good view of the workings. They are responsible for crushing to resize the rocks before they are sold to the various middlemen whose trucks are parked by the mining site.
Although it varies somewhat by geography, women are involved in mining gold, gemstones, cobalt or other lower value industrial minerals requiring intensive labour. Women undertake a range of tasks within ASM operations, including digging, panning, processing, transporting, hauling, cooking, and cleaning. Often, they are exposed to great risk of physical harm. They represent a large percentage of the workforce engaged in ASM — up to 50 per cent in Africa.
A women’s collective
Ore is currency at an ASM site. In a communal mine, labour and wages are settled through bags of ore. Afiya and the other women have formed a collective to cushion each other and ensure everyone goes home with some cash at the end of the day. When the production is low, they crush two to five bags of rocks a day. They earn around USD 20 per bag, which is considerably less than the male miners, who typically earn 40% more as casual laborers at the mine sites. There are ten women in Afiya’s group and whatever they earn must be shared. On a good day, they will crush ten bags of ore. The group has its own constitution agreed by its members, although this is not written down. Their business model is based on trust between their fellow workers. In addition to sharing the earnings each day, they have a savings system where everyone contributes USD 50 cents each day and gives it to an appointed group treasurer. This money is saved in a local bank and a member can take a loan payable back with 10% interest. They use this as their emergency kitty when they have a death, a sick relative who needs care, or to assist their husbands to pay for school fees.
A day in the life of a woman in ASM
A morning for these women typically starts at the crack of dawn by prepping the family for the day ahead. They make breakfast for the kids and see them off to school; prepare a meal for their husbands, who must go to work early at the mine, or are coming in from the night shift. Then there is the laundry to do, cleaning up after everyone, and setting aside food for the kids for when they return in the afternoon. Once household duties are completed, the mothers-cum-wives-cum-housekeepers lock their house, and step into yet another role as a money earner and head to the mines to work.
Some of the women go to work at the mines with their young children despite knowing the potential dangers. They have little other choice as they have no one to leave them with at home and they need to bring in more revenue. Due to the training provided by organisations like The Impact Facility and others on child labour and mine safety, they have been educated about the dangers of allowing children at the mines and, particularly, how to avoid risking children’s health. They in turn have come up with creative solutions among themselves by establishing what would be the equivalent of a day care facility. They take turns to offer up one of the member’s homes to accommodate the children and a caregiver, for which they all share the cost.
Challenges that face women in ASM
Women in ASM contend daily with many challenges; they are the epitome of resilience and fortitude. Queried about what should be done to support them, they answer in unison: access to capital. They settle for casual labour at the mines because they do not own land and the banks do not lend them money they need to lease mining pits and acquire the equipment to recover ore. There is urgent need for innovative gendered approaches to finance these resilient women to become mine owners and nourish their entrepreneurial abilities through financial literacy trainings.
Afiya and her group have approached the government on the possibility of acquiring a mining licence. They aim to identify a prospective area where they can mine, although they have limited geological data to guide their application and must rely on local ‘geological experts’ to guide them. They insist that they want to mine legally to be able to attract financing and challenge the perception of ASM activities being associated with illegality.
Possibilities and hope within ASM
Despite the challenges that face these women, they are driven to inspire and nurture other women joining the sector. They hope to create opportunities to provide decent work to women who are normally vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse at ASM sites, or who see little other option than to be sex workers. They aspire to register a cooperative to grow their savings, invest further in mining and diversify their income sources. Through establishing cooperatives and associations like the Association of Women in Mining in Africa (AWIMA) that offer platforms to advocate for the plight of women in both ASM and LSM, stakeholders can be rallied to support these resilient women.
In the spirit of building back better together during and after the pandemic, governments, development agencies, investors, civil society and other stakeholders have a chance to join hands to address gender inequality in the ASM sector, replicating and scaling existing efforts towards the inclusive sustainable development of mining communities as espoused by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
To quote the AWIMA president Madam Georgette Barnes Sakyi-Addo: “The future of mining is female, and she is determined to author and narrate her own story”.
Events and resources
We recently hosted a webinar to answer all the frequently asked questions from stakeholders involved in the responsible sourcing process. You can watch this and all of our other responsible sourcing webinars by visiting our Responsible Sourcing webinar section.
- LME Week (11-15 October) more details surrounding sustainability and responsible sourcing specific events will be released shortly. For out more about LME week.
- LMEpassport sustainability disclosure training webinar (9 September) - register now to book your place.
Get in touch and get involved!
If you are interested in contributing to a future LME Sustainability Spotlight newsletter please email the Sustainability Team. If you have any questions for our team on sustainability or responsible sourcing please contact our team who will be happy to help.