The BMW Group has launched an initiative to protect the deep seas in cooperation with the WWF Germany. In a joint declaration, the BMW Group, WWF and other companies—including the Volvo Group—undertake, as a precautionary measure, not to use deep-ocean minerals or finance deep-sea mining until comprehensive scientific research into the impact of deep-sea mining can be conducted and the consequences for the environment are clearly assessed.
Mining in water thousands of meters deep could have destructive effects on vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems and lead to loss of biodiversity and species extinction. WWF’s recent report, “In Too Deep,” shows the projected large-scale destruction of the seabed could affect global fisheries and threaten carbon and nutrient cycles in the ocean. Given the slow pace of deep-sea processes, destroyed habitats are unlikely to recover within human timescales. What has been created over millions of years would be wiped out in a day.
The BMW Group aspires to be one of the most sustainable automotive manufacturers and has built high standards into its supply chains for this purpose. The procurement of raw materials requires particular care. There are currently insufficient scientific findings to be able to assess the environmental risks of deep-sea mining. For this reason, raw materials from deep-sea mining are not an option for the BMW Group at the present time.—Patrick Hudde, head of Supply Chain Sustainability and Indirect Purchasing Raw Materials Management, BMW Group
Due to growing demand for raw materials in general, deep-sea deposits of mineral raw materials have recently received greater attention. In particular, manganese nodules (polymetallic nodules), cobalt-rich iron and manganese crusts, as well as massive sulfides and ore sludge, could attract the interest of mining companies.
Individual experts believe this could offer an attractive alternative to minerals from terrestrial mining. However, the majority of experts remain sceptical overall, due to the lack of scientific analysis.
The BMW Group’s sustainability strategy is also relying more on resource-efficient closed-loop material cycles, with the aim of significantly increasing the percentage of secondary material in vehicles. The company already uses up to 50% secondary aluminium, 25% secondary steel and up to 20% secondary thermoplastics. These percentages should continue to increase going forward. Wider use of secondary materials will help reduce the need for primary raw materials in the long run.