Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt revealed its intention to explore cobalt sourcing from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the production of chemicals essential in electric vehicle batteries, according to an announcement on Friday. The company has conducted trials on materials, assessed work processes, and compared plans to enhance social and environmental sustainability, aiming to establish long-term partnerships.
Northvolt, which currently acquires cobalt from Australia and other nations, expressed the strategic importance of securing reliable and affordable materials while emphasizing a desire for the DRC to be part of its supply chain.
Stakeholders urged Northvolt to engage directly with miners and other entities in the DRC to improve working conditions in the economically challenged African nation. Congo holds the position of the world’s largest cobalt supplier, with a significant portion of its production generated by artisanal miners working in harsh conditions. Northvolt disclosed ongoing discussions with stakeholders involved in both large-scale and artisanal/small-scale mining.
While Northvolt is not yet ready to source cobalt from artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), the company has joined the Fair Cobalt Alliance. This alliance aims to enhance safety measures in artisanal mines, minimize environmental impact, and establish suitable working conditions for miners. Although electric vehicle manufacturers are increasingly adopting non-cobalt battery chemistries like lithium-iron-phosphate, Northvolt stressed that over two-thirds of the electric vehicle battery market relies on cobalt for its energy density, safety, and performance attributes, according to The Cobalt Institute.
Northvolt, having raised billions of dollars for building factories in Europe and North America, possesses contracts exceeding $55 billion with various carmakers.