Volkswagen has joined the Cobalt for Development initiative to promote more sustainable cobalt mining in the Congo. The project is being implemented by the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) and has so far been financed by BASF, BMW, Google, Samsung Electronics and Samsung SDI.
The pilot project aims to strengthen legal compliance and improve health and safety conditions and social well-being in southern Congo, where 70 per cent of the world’s cobalt deposits are located. The first training courses for mine operators and workers have just been launched, according to Volkswagen. Cobalt for Development was founded in September 2019 with a special focus on cobalt mining in Congolese micro-mines. The founding quartet (BMW, BASF, Samsung SDI and Samsung Electronics) was joined by Google and now Volkswagen.
As early as the end of 2018, the initiators of the initiative made public their idea to promote the sustainable mining of the raw material in a selected cobalt mine in Congolese artisanal mining. Over a period of three years, they are currently testing how the living and working conditions in the mine and how the surrounding communities can be improved.
Volkswagen currently does not accept any cobalt from Congolese artisanal mining. “For our e-mobility strategy, sustainable and responsible sourcing of raw materials is of the utmost importance. Cobalt plays a vital role for us, despite a decreasing amount of the raw material in newer generations of batteries for electric vehicles,” says Ullrich Gereke, Head of Procurement Strategy at the Volkswagen Group. “We are seeking to establish artisanal mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a strictly sustainable cobalt source because the existence of many local communities depends on this sector.”
The pilot project in the Congolese copper belt focuses on two aspects: working conditions in artisanal mining and living conditions for the surrounding communities. In both areas, the auspicing body GIZ wants to make progress in cooperation with local cooperatives, government agencies and civil society organisations. The initiative says that this will be done by “improving mine site management and through health, safety and environmental training for miners. The surrounding communities are to benefit from improved access to education, new income opportunities and training in conflict resolution. So far, more than 1,800 residents from these communities have already benefitted from these measures.”
In addition to its involvement in Cobalt for Development, Volkswagen has already entered into a partnership with RCS Global, an agency specialising in supply chain analysis. The system developed by RCS Global enables the tracking of raw materials to sub-suppliers, refineries, smelters, mines and recycling companies. “Working with the RCS Global agency helps us to get a complete overview of which raw material sources and subcontractors are in our supply chains and at the same time check their accountability,” Gereke said a few weeks ago. “In direct contact with the sub-suppliers, our expectations of responsible raw material procurement can be explained, checked and agreed-upon measures can be better tracked”.
With reporting by Cora Werwitzke
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