Banner Vehicles July 2019

Are EV's the only answer?

We rely on the latest battery technologies for many differing applications. For example, Lithium-ion battery cells are found in many devises and gadgets. They are used in cameras, smartphones, laptops, watches, portable power packs, cordless tools, scooters, solar energy storage, UPS emergency power, alarm systems, golf carts, in boats, yachts, motorhomes, caravans and in the medical field.

Lithium BatteriesHowever, none of those fields use batteries as large and as powerful as the electric vehicle industry. Mining for minerals used in the manufacture of batteries continues to be troubled with many scathing allegations. We are reading reports that major EV manufacturers continue to source their materials for their batteries from some of the worst offenders.

Hundreds of allegations have been documented relating to human rights abuses around mining for key minerals used in rechargeable batteries, and renewable energy technologies. Many of these allegations are alleged to directly link to Volkswagen Group, Tesla, and BYD, three of the world’s biggest EV manufacturers.

Reports we see are based on the complaint that these technologies should not come at the expense of people who live and work in places where companies source the raw materials.

Mining Raw MaterialsWe should be aware that EV’s require about 6 times as many minerals as a typical petrol or diesel car. According to the International Energy Agency, demand for critical minerals used in EV’s and battery storage for renewable energy will continue to grow.

Scrambling to secure those minerals without taking the time to make sure they’re mined humanely is becoming a huge problem to face now and into the future.

These current and potential abuses are linked to the mining of key minerals like bauxite, cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel, and zinc. The International Energy Agency has been tracking those allegations using publicly available records, including court documents and regulatory resources, as well as reports from other non-governmental organisations and media outlets. Even today they continue to find more and more allegations, including an increase in water pollution, labour rights violations, and worker deaths.

Using Tesla as an example, we see that Tesla buys Nickel and Cobalt from Glencore, (a Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company with headquarters in Switzerland). Glencore have a mine in Australia and two mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mining PollutionWorkers at one of those cobalt mines in the Congo have reported on unsafe working conditions without adequate water or breaks and with little food or pay. Cobalt is often called “the blood diamond of batteries” relating to the dangers of mining practices. Tesla uses impact reporting and carries out audits of its suppliers to improve working conditions at each site to make sure corrective action is taken to address any issues.

Looking quickly at China’s main EV manufacture BYD, it has overtaken Tesla to become the world’s largest maker and seller of EV’s despite its vehicles being unavailable in America, mainly due to high tariffs. BYD sources its battery minerals from China Minmetals (China Minmetals Corporation is a Chinese metals and mineral trading company headquartered in Beijing).

Minmetals have come into focus even more than Glencore this year, racking up more allegations of abuse than any other mining company. A separate report by environmental and human rights group, ranks car companies based on how much progress they’ve made to eliminate environmental harms and human rights abuses. Tesla ranked 3rd best, behind Ford and Mercedes-Benz, in that assessment. Volkswagen ranked 6th, and BYD came in 16th out of the 18 companies ranked.

June 2024


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