Training of artisanal miners has begun in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as part of a cross-industry initiative to develop an independent, ethical and sustainable cobalt supply for the lithium-ion battery industry.
Training of twelve artisanal mining cooperatives involving more than 1,500 miners in Kolwezi, DRC, begun last month as part of the ‘Cobalt for Development’ initiative launched by vehicle OEM BMW and lithium-ion battery makers Samsung and BASF.
The training covers environmental, social and governance aspects for responsible mining practices, including site management, legal compliance, as well as the controversial topic of human rights.
The training curricula offer practical risk mitigation guidelines for occupational and environmental risks, and are benchmarked with Congolese and international law and standards.
The initiative has been investigating how living and working conditions in Kolwezi’s artisanal cobalt mines and in the surrounding communities can be improved for almost two years.
It intends to complete training of the cobalt miners by mid-2021.
The project has so far screened 36 artisanal mines to identify a suitable site that fulfils two minimum requirements: legality as well as accessible and sufficient cobalt deposits.
One of the mining sites under evaluation is located next to Kisote, DRC.
BMW, BASF, Samsung SDI and Samsung Electronics initiated the project, and in January 2019 commissioned the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit to implement the project with non-governmental organizations. Volkswagen joined the initiative as new partner.
Ullrich Gereke, head of procurement strategy at Volkswagen Group, said: “For our e-mobility strategy, sustainable and responsible sourcing of raw materials is of utmost importance.
“In this regard, cobalt plays a vital role, despite a decreasing amount of the raw material in newer generations of batteries for electric vehicles.”
While the partners do not intend to operate artisanal mines, it is planned to test at a specific pilot site under what conditions responsible artisanal mining could be viable.
Last year, BMW announced it was to buy cobalt for its electric vehicle batteries directly from mines in Australia and Morocco to ensure “complete transparency” about the origin of the raw material.