Nonprofits Call on EU to Pass Battery Metal Regulations on Responsible Mineral Sourcing

Last week, a coalition of not-for-profit organizations released a statement on proposed battery regulations that require manufacturers and importers to responsibly source the minerals used within batteries. The coalition is comprised of Transport & Environment, Amnesty International, SOMO, Earthworks, RAID, PowerShift, INKOTA, Inclusive Development International, Human Rights Watch, Germanwatch, Finnwatch, Setem Catalunya, Centre d’Aide juridico-judiciaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Collectif des organisations de la Société Civile pour la défense des droits des communautés.

These regulations would establish compulsory requirements for every battery being sold in the European Union’s market, including industrial, electric car, automotive and portable batteries. The parameters include rules that would require manufacturers and importers of batteries to identify as well as address potential and actual environmental and human rights abuses within the supply chain of essential raw inputs.

The proposed list of key raw materials by the European Parliament includes iron, nickel, copper, lithium, bauxite, graphite and cobalt.  However, national governments of the block’s member states would like to keep iron, copper and bauxite off this list. The commission, Parliament and the council started negotiations about the final wording of the draft rules last month.

Human Rights Watch’s senior corporate accountability researcher and advocate Jim Wormington stated that the important strides made by the EU to ensure supply chains for batteries were free from environmental and human rights harms wouldn’t be effective if the list didn’t include iron, copper and bauxite. Wormington explained that while these materials were crucial to the production of batteries, their extraction and processing methods had significantly contributed to environmental and human rights damage around the globe.

For instance, bauxite mining is the largest contributor of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. The production of aluminum also releases greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. The mining of copper in Zambia has also led to air and water pollution, forced evictions and land loss. This is in addition to exposing individuals to toxic pollution linked to birth defects. Cobalt and copper mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo has also abused the labor rights of many workers, which is a violation of their human rights.

Iron is used to manufacture battery casings while copper is utilized in electric wiring and battery anodes. Projections from the International Copper Association show that by 2029, the copper demand for energy storage use will have increased by more than 2 million tons. This huge demand will help major producers such as Southern Copper Corp. (NYSE: SCCO) (FRA: PCU) deliver greater shareholder value.

On the other hand, bauxite is the ore required to manufacture aluminum. To make one ton of aluminum, manufacturers need four tons of bauxite. Forecasts from the International Aluminum Institute show that the use of aluminum in batteries and other electric car components by auto manufacturers will have doubled by 2050.

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