Over a period of three years, the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) intends to use the pilot mine to demonstrate how cobalt can be mined under humane conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The project focuses on a pilot mine in which cobalt is mined using non-industrial methods. The project partners will not be operators of this mine.
BMW wants to purchase cobalt itself in order to better control the supply chain and provide the raw material from 2020 to its battery cell suppliers CATL and Samsung. The focus of the pilot project, which is financed purely privately, is to test initial approaches that will improve the working and living conditions of mine workers and surrounding communities. If the project is successful, these approaches can be transferred to other non-industrial mines in the long term.
Cobalt is a key element in the production of batteries for the automotive and electronics industries. The world's largest known reserves of this raw material are located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 80 to 85 percent of cobalt extraction in the Congo is industrial, 15 to 20 percent of mining takes place using non-industrial methods. The greatest challenge is to ensure compliance with human rights, environmental, health, and safety standards in the non-industrial mining of cobalt.
For the first time, partners from the automotive, chemical, and electronics industries have come together to tackle the problems of cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo with a specific project. The pilot project is based on a feasibility study conducted by GIZ and the BMW Group. The project was planned on the basis of findings from on-site visits, interviews with stakeholders, and surveys among mine workers and local residents.
In the long term, the project should also contribute to supporting the goals of global initiatives to promote sustainable supply chains, such as the Global Battery Alliance (GBA).