The European Union's efforts to ethically source a key battery metal is facing headwinds that could make it more expensive for automakers to go electric.
Cobalt is the battery metal at the highest risk of being exploited in ways that damage the health of people and the environment. Most of the world's supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, with as much as a third of that supplied by small-scale miners who often work in dangerous conditions. Regulators have begun developing rules designed to help industry avoid damaging its reputation.
But those “ambitious requirements might currently be too difficult,” according to an assessment prepared by researchers advising the European Commission. The report, which will be published by Elsevier's Resources Policy journal in June, suggests a tightening market for responsibly sourced cobalt.
“If, as proposed by the European Commission, due diligence on cobalt supply chain will be mandatory for batteries sold in the EU markets in the near future, the demand for responsibly sourced cobalt will increase rapidly,” the study prepared by the EU's Joint Research Centre said.