Toronto-based First Cobalt said today it would become North America’s first producer of cobalt sulphate, which is crucial for EV batteries. By the end of next year, its Ontario refinery could produce enough cobalt for at least 335,000 electric vehicles by the end of next year.
The EV industry was already finding ways to reduce its dependence on cobalt before the coronavirus hit. Now the supply of the expensive metal is being disrupted as Congo imposes a two-day lockdown in Haut-Katanga, where two people tested positive for the coronavirus.
Panasonic, Tesla’s exclusive battery cell suppliers for its vehicles, has shut down its relationship with a cobalt supplier due to a possible violation of the US embargo with Cuba. Expand Expanding Close
There’s mounting pressure on automakers and battery makers to make sure they don’t contribute to human right violations by using “conflict minerals”. These include cobalt mined in artisanal mines, which often have terrible working conditions and even sometimes employ children, in Congo.
Tesla issued its latest ‘Conflict Minerals Report’ to disclose its effort for “responsible sourcing” which includes reducing the use of cobalt. Expand Expanding Close
For those of us who believe that the entire automotive industry is rapidly transitioning from being powered by fossil fuels to electricity, it becomes important to transfer any asset from one to the other not only from an environmental standpoint, but also from a financial standpoint.
We have reported before on a growing movement to divest from fossil fuels – now reaching over $5.2 trillion – but the question is where do you reinvest that money? What is the new petrol?
The minerals used to make batteries are obvious contenders, but there are a lot of different kinds of batteries using all different minerals. Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada is alone expected to double the global battery production over the next year and therefore, it could create a resource boom. Expand Expanding Close
Amnesty International and Afrewatch published a new investigative report (embedded below) explaining in details the global supply chain of cobalt and the use of child labor to source the mineral in Congo.
The report highlights the failure of certain electronics and electric car companies to ensure that the cobalt used in their batteries is not sourced using child labor. It names several automakers like Mercedes, VW and BYD, as well as several battery manufacturers known to supply automakers, like LG Chem (GM and Nissan). The report also goes after electronic giants Apple, Samsung and others. Expand Expanding Close