BMW Group, BASF, Samsung SDI and Samsung Electronics launch “Cobalt for Development”, a cross-industry initiative to promote responsible cobalt mining in micro-mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Following an introduction and commitment by the manufacturers in late 2018, with support from the German development agency GIZ, work at the artisanal cobalt mine site in the Democratic Republic of Congo kicked off on the ground yesterday. As a key component in the manufacturing of batteries for electronic devices and EVs, the resource is vital for the electrification of transport. About two thirds of the global supply are located in Congo, and while the majority of the mines are foreign owned, there is little protection for the miners and their families, who struggle in unsafe and inhumane conditions.
The move will benefit the miners, as well as the companies, who have lagged behind investment in EV resource materials, and are now clamouring for access to the resources. Sustainability is also a key word when it comes to the raw material sourcing, as manufacturers will require a long-term supply, which can only succeed if conditions in the industry are improved significantly. As Dr. Andreas Wendt, from BMW’s board of management puts it: “Sustainability is an important aspect of our corporate strategy and plays a key role in expanding electro-mobility. We are fully aware of our responsibility: Cobalt and other commodities must be extracted and processed under ethically responsible conditions.”
BASF reassured their commitment to the project and the Global Battery Alliance, however concedes that they do not actually purchase cobalt from such sources: ” Although BASF does not procure cobalt from artisanal mines, we actively support “Cobalt for Development” as it aims to look for new ways to improve the sustainability of the supply chain,” said CFO and board member Dr. Hans-Ulrich Engel.
The project will now run for three years, testing how living and working conditions in artisanal cobalt mining and in the surrounding communities can be improved. The pilot project will initially focus on “analyzing occupational and environmental risks to develop and implement responsible mining practices.” Local partners are also involved, in order to “strengthen local ownership and sustainability.” Efforts are also underway to improve education in the local community, as well as financial literacy and alternative incomes. Should the project prove successful, the idea is to spread the practices to other locations around the country, strengthening the local economy as well as the autonomy of its people.
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