South Korean firms Samsung SDI and Samsung Electronics are teaming up with German car giant BMW and chemicals group BASF for a joint pilot cobalt mining project to “enhance sustainable mining” for batteries production.
The companies have signed a contract with the German overseas development support agency— Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)— to launch the pilot in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Under the terms of the contract, the partners will “aim to improve artisanal mining working conditions, as well as living conditions for surrounding communities”.
The scope of the project will centre on a single, unnamed mine, during the next three years, although the partners will not operate the mine themselves.
GIZ said the initiative “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.”
According to GIZ, industrial mining accounts for around 80-85% of Congolese cobalt production, with artisanal mining operations producing the remaining 15-20%.
“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 DRC,” GIZ said.
“This pilot project builds on a feasibility study jointly conducted by GIZ and BMW. Insights gained from visits to several artisanal mines, stakeholder interviews and surveys of miners and community members were instrumental in shaping this project approach.”
BMW pledged last year to work for a more sustainable and transparent cobalt supply chain for battery manufacturing, following calls for an ethical approach to procuring raw materials.