Microsoft Seeks Coalition To Boost Congo's Cobalt Mines, Counter EV Battery Crisis From Growing Demand

  • Microsoft Corp MSFT visited an artisanal cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo in December to start formalizing the little-regulated and dangerous cobalt industry critical to meeting global demand for battery material.
  • In the first known visit by Microsoft, chief of staff for tech and corporate responsibility Michele Burlington met miners at Mutoshi, where commodities trader Trafigura had helped run a formalization scheme that ended in 2020, Reuters reports.
  • Congo accounts for three-quarters of the mined cobalt supply. 
  • Industrial mines produce most of Congo’s cobalt, but “artisanal” miners, who dig by hand and often die when tunnels cave in, account for up to 30% of production.
  • Companies that use cobalt in products from electric cars to smartphones should work to improve conditions at artisanal mines instead of seeking to cut artisanal cobalt out of their supply chains, Dorothee Baumann Pauly wrote in an independent report.
  • Pauly is the director of the Geneva Center for Business and Human Rights.
  • “In practice, it is virtually impossible for them to completely exclude artisanal cobalt, especially when it is sent to smelters and refiners in DRC and China.”
  • “We are continuing to work on this problem. It’s an issue that will take a coalition to solve,” Microsoft said.
  • Tesla Inc’s TSLA CEO, Elon Musk, said the EV maker would probably hit annual production of 20 million vehicles before 2030.
  • Nearly 75% of all the EVs sold today use batteries that rely on cobalt to deliver increased performance, superior safety, and longer driving ranges.
  • The IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario points to cobalt demand growing by over 20x between 2020 and 2040.
  • From 2024 to 2026, annual cobalt demand growth will outpace annual supply growth by 50%.
  • Price Action: MSFT shares traded higher by 1% at $270.23 premarket on the last check Wednesday.
  • Photo by The International Institute for Environment and Development via Flickr
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