Tesla is reportedly in talks with mining giant Glencore to secure a supply of cobalt, a controversial mineral used to produce Li-ion batteries used in most electric vehicles today.
Cobalt is a controversial mineral due to most of it coming from mining operations in Congo, a place that has historically been affected by conflict and corruption, which has resulted in child labor in some mining operations.
Most tech and auto companies using cobalt have taken steps to avoid sourcing from those operations, but it’s a hard thing to track since it changes hands several times before reaching a battery cell.
Now Tesla is looking to get its cobalt from Glencore, according to Bloomberg:
“Glencore Plc is negotiating a long-term contract to ship cobalt to Tesla Inc.’s new electric-vehicle factory in Shanghai, according to people familiar with the matter.”
Glencore, the world’s biggest supplier of cobalt, has been securing long-term contracts with several automakers looking to expand electric vehicle production, like with VW and BMW.
The company gets its cobalt through its subsidiary Katanga Mining, a Canada-based company that operates a copper and cobalt mine in Congo’s Katanga province.
A year ago, Canadian authorities fined Glencore’s Katanga company more than $20 million and banned some of its executives, including billionaire Aristotelis Mistakidis, from serving as a director in Canada over misleading investors regarding their relationship with the Congolese authorities.
There are several other mining operations that are looking to produce more cobalt outside of the Republic of Congo, including in Canada, the US, and Australia.
Some automakers are looking to produce their own battery cells and secure the minerals directly, while others are getting involved through the supplier chain, but the battery cells are being produced by other manufacturers, like LG Chem and Panasonic.
As I have often stated in the past, securing battery supply is a priority in order to scale electric vehicle production and that starts with securing the raw materials.
Last year, Tesla warned of upcoming shortages of battery minerals, like nickel, copper, and lithium that could cause issues for the rapid EV production ramp-up.
But it still definitely not a reason to contribute to corruption and potentially even child labor.
Tesla is taking steps to make sure its suppliers don’t participate in those things and it publishes a yearly ‘Conflict Minerals Report’ to keep track of the effort.
Furthermore, the company is also looking to reduce the amount of cobalt needed in its battery cells.
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