Volkswagen and Daimler join a partnership to promote sourcing of sustainable battery ingredients – currently the ecological Achilles’ heel of battery-electric vehicles.
Much has been written about the high carbon footprint of existing methods of mining ingredients including lithium, cobalt and rare earth and also on the batteries’ lack of recyclability after second-life uses.
Now the automakers have joined with BASF and Fairphone in creating a “Responsible Lithium Partnership” aiming to work toward responsible natural resource management in Chile’s Salar de Atacama.
This cross-industry partnership is funded by its members who intend to foster a dialogue among local stakeholders, generating and synthesizing scientific facts and seeking solutions. Expansion of e-mobility and digitalization is expected to drive growing demand for lithium in particular as key material in batteries.
The partnership says the world’s largest lithium reserves and large parts of the total production are located in the Salar de Atacama.
The region’s ecosystem is fragile and there is lack of consensus regarding the impacts and risks of lithium mining and other economic activity in the region.
Potential risks derived from water and brine table shifts could potentially harm the ecosystems and affect local livelihoods. These issues are the chief targets the partnership is hoping to address.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH, commissioned by the companies, will coordinate the partnership seeking to find common ground by building a multi-stakeholder platform among all relevant players in the Salar watershed, ranging from civil society groups including indigenous communities, government institutions, mining companies and beyond.
The platform aims to jointly develop a shared vision for the future of the Salar de Atacama watershed. In addition, it intends to co-develop a joint action plan to improve long-term integrated natural resource management and undertake the first implementing steps.
Another aim is to synthesize and verify available technical data, improve on it if necessary, and increase accessibility. The partnership is launching now, with a planned duration of 2 1/2 years. It does not intend to facilitate the sourcing of lithium nor the purchase or selling of any raw mineral.