BMW to Source Cobalt Directly from Approved Mines

April 24, 2019 at 8:37 AM

BMW AG plans to buy cobalt, which is used in lithium-ion batteries for electrified vehicles, directly from mines to ensure child labor isn’t used during the mining process.

Cobalt typically is purchased by battery manufacturers. The material is extracted as a by-product of copper and nickel mining activities. The largest known reserves of cobalt are in Democratic Republic of Congo, which a 2016 Amnesty International report warned used children as young as seven to dig for the material.

BMW will now buy cobalt from mines in Australia and Morocco, according to purchasing chief Andreas Wendt. BMW will begin using the material from these sources in EVs next year. The carmaker also has launched a pilot program to improve working conditions in Congo.

Switzerland-based Glencore will supply cobalt to BMW from the commodity company’s Murrin mine in Australia, Reuters reports. Last year the facility produced 2,900 tons of cobalt.

Experts have warned for years about potential cobalt shortages as sales of electrified vehicles ramp up. Ford, IBM and LG Chem formed a consortium earlier this year, joined by Volkswagen this month, to improve supply chain transparency for cobalt and other minerals. The London Metal Exchange also has threatened to ban or delist companies that are not responsibly sourced by 2022.