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Tesla doubles down on ethical sourcing with cobalt mining risk analysis

Tesla has published a new report on its efforts to make its cobalt supply chain significantly more ethical, safe, and secure.

By far, cobalt is the most difficult to acquire mineral required to make a battery for an electric vehicle. The material often requires significant chemical processing to remove it from the ground; it is usually found in rock formations that can release toxic gases when mined, and to make things worse, the primary sources of the material are some of the poorest countries on Earth. Now, Tesla has published an analysis as part of its 2022 Impact Report, detailing its efforts to make the mining process more ethical and safe.

According to Tesla’s 2022 Impact Report, one of its primary sources of cobalt is, as defined by the United Nations, the poorest country on Earth, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This country is found in Southern Central Africa, and despite its extraordinary material wealth, including a vast supply of cobalt, it is also the stage of countless human atrocities, civil wars, and human trafficking operations.

In efforts to make its cobalt mining more ethical, Tesla’s report focused on a couple of critical factors. Foremost, the automaker has sent personnel to audit its suppliers, primarily in the DRC and China. At these supply locations, Tesla focused on environmental impact, impact on local communities, and general working conditions. Further, the American car maker worked with “local stakeholders and NGOs working on issues like health, safety, and child labor remediation” to help improve each of these risk factors.

Specifically, Tesla laid out five improvements that it was dedicated to implementing or has already implemented to improve its Cobalt supply chain, including “fair working conditions, human rights, and occupational health and safety,” coexisting land use policies, “good corporate governance,” “safe substance management,” and removing unethical suppliers.

Besides these global improvements, Tesla also created a plan to improve its sourcing from the DRC, which has notoriously been the source of many ethical mining problems. Tesla notes that it is helping to dramatically improve the working conditions of “artisanal miners,” or miners who are not part of a traditional corporation. The automaker achieves this through its founding membership of the Fair Cobalt Alliance, dedicated to improving cobalt mining practices globally.

Luckily, Tesla isn’t just dedicated to improving its sourcing regarding cobalt. The company outlined six different materials critical for battery manufacturing, which it has completed risk analyses of and has put forward similar standards of improvement. The six investigated materials include lithium, nickel, cobalt, aluminum, silica, and “3Tg”; tungsten, tin, tantalum, and gold.

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