Earlier this year, BMW announced their plans of sourcing its cobalt in a responsible manner. One of the big issues surrounding cobalt mining is that, in a lot of cases, is done with utter disregard for even the smallest ethical norms. That’s about to change if the pilot project ‘Cobalt for Development’ launched by BMW, BASF SE, Samsung SDI and Samsung Electronics goes according to plan.

The project kicked off this week and plans to improve working conditions for the people mining at an artisanal cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since most of the global reserves and production of cobalt are located in Congo and this is a vital component in the production of batteries and electronic devices, this is the perfect place to kickstart this project. The companies involved in this effort commissioned a German authority to test within three years how living and working conditions in artisanal cobalt mining and in the surrounding communities can be improved.

The commissioning companies will not operate the mine. Together with authorities in the province of Lualaba, the project has selected a legal artisanal mine site nearby Kolwezi to pilot the approach. “Sustainability is an important aspect of our corporate strategy and plays a key role in expanding electro-mobility. We are fully aware of our responsibility: Cobalt and other commodities must be extracted and processed under ethically responsible conditions,” emphasizes Dr. Andreas Wendt, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Purchasing and Supplier Network.

During the upcoming months, the pilot project will focus on analyzing occupational and environmental risks to develop and implement responsible mining practices. Local partners such as the artisanal mining cooperative will participate from the beginning in developing and implementing these measures to strengthen local ownership and sustainability of the approach. In the nearby community, the focus will be to improve access to education, as well as financial literacy and alternative incomes for its residents.