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BMW Group, BASF SE, Samsung SDI and Samsung Electronics launch cross-industry project to support sustainable cobalt mining

As part of a cross-industry initiative, the BMW Group, BASF SE, Samsung SDI and Samsung Electronics have launched a joint cobalt pilot project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A contract to this effect between the companies, together with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, will aim to improve artisanal mining working conditions, as well as living conditions for surrounding communities.

The scope of the project will span over one pilot mine within the next three years, and the partners will not operate the mine.

This fully privately financed project seeks to pilot an approach to address challenges in artisanal mining. As it is limited to one pilot mine site and the surrounding community, it seeks to contribute to identifying workable solutions that lead to better working conditions at the mine site. If proven effective, these measures could then be scaled up to other legal artisanal mine sites and enhance systemic challenges in the longer run.

Cobalt is a key component in the production of batteries for the automotive and electronics industries. The world’s largest known reserves of this raw material are found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More than half of the world’s cobalt mine production comes from the Katanga Copperbelt in DR Congo, according to a study published earlier this year in Nature Sustainability.

Industrial mining accounts for approximately 80-85% of Congolese cobalt production, with artisanal mining operations producing the remaining 15-20%.

Currently, companies are facing challenges in the areas of environment, health and safety, and human rights when cobalt is extracted through artisanal mining.

This is the first time partners from automotive, chemical and consumer electronics industries have come together in a project on the ground to address the challenges of artisanal cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This pilot project builds on a feasibility study jointly conducted by GIZ and BMW Group. Insights gained from visits to several artisanal mines, stakeholder interviews and surveys of miners and community members were instrumental in shaping this project approach.

This project also contributes to the goals of global initiatives, such as the Global Battery Alliance (GBA), to foster sustainable supply chains.

Resources

  • Célestin Banza Lubaba Nkulu, Lidia Casas, Vincent Haufroid, Thierry De Putter, Nelly D. Saenen, Tony Kayembe-Kitenge, Paul Musa Obadia, Daniel Kyanika Wa Mukoma, Jean-Marie Lunda Ilunga, Tim S. Nawrot, Oscar Luboya Numbi, Erik Smolders & Benoit Nemery (2018) “Sustainability of artisanal mining of cobalt in DR Congo” Nature Sustainability volume 1, pages 495–504 doi: 10.1038/s41893-018-0139-4

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