BMW initiates pilot project to improve cobalt mining conditions in DRC

BMW has created a pilot project that will attempt to improve conditions for mining cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as the electric vehicle (EV) market continues to grow.

The German firm and other car manufacturers are struggling to get access to ethically sourced cobalt, which is a vital component in the production of EV batteries.

The DRC is home to the world’s largest reserves of cobalt – more than 60% of global supply – but environmental, health and safety and human rights concerns loom large in the country’s sprawling artisanal mining sector.

However, BMW will work with chemicals giant BASF, battery maker Samsung SDI and German development agency GIZ GmbH to explore ways to improve working and living conditions in areas where cobalt is extracted using manual labour.

“It seeks to contribute to identifying workable solutions that lead to better working conditions at the mine site,” said BMW. “If proven effective, these measures could then be scaled up to other legal artisanal mine sites and enhance systemic challenges in the longer run.”

BMW said that the scope of the project will cover one pilot mine within the next three years. The company added that it will not directly purchase cobalt from the mine, explaining that the mine will be operated by a local cooperative.