Davos Speaker Details The ‘Horrific’ Costs Of Mining Key Metal Used In Electric Car Batteries
Harold Hutchison on January 17, 2023
A speaker at the World Economic Forum (WEF) held at Davos, Switzerland, said Tuesday that mining cobalt, a material vital for the batteries used by electric cars, had “horrific” costs.
“The question about mining is — we mine for cobalt and we don’t recognize that cobalt mining has a catastrophic impact if it’s — if it’s, you know, local cobalt mining or even if it’s large-scale cobalt mining, it’s really horrific,” Alan Dangour, the Wellcome Trust’s director for climate and health, said during a panel titled “Protecting the Climate Vulnerable.”
Cobalt is one of several metals and minerals critical for “green” energy sources, including electric vehicle batteries, according to a May 2021 report by the International Energy Agency. Cobalt mining by hand in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed or crippled many miners, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
“There is now very nice evidence, in fact, on the impact it has on the health of women and children, especially it has substantial negative impact on fetal growth and fetal health. So — but that’s evidence that’s relatively new and relatively recently identified. So, the reason I’m saying this is there are trade-offs here,” Dangour said.
China produces about 60% of the cobalt for the world market, and at least 50% of the refining for that metal, the IEA reported in 2021.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new regulations on vehicle emissions in December 2021 that could force many gasoline-powered vehicles off the country’s roads. President Joe Biden announced plans to ensure that 50% of new vehicles sold in 2030 are electric, while also seeking to have the federal government only purchase electric vehicles by 2035.
“So, you could go down the line and cobalt mine and move the community out, and that would be horrific and there would be all sorts of problems, of course, but without that data you can’t — you know, understanding the broader impact of what we’re trying to achieve, understanding biodiversity impacts, understanding health impacts, bringing all of that evidence together, it’s very difficult to make the right choice,” Dangour added.
California announced plans to ban non-electric vehicles starting in 2035 in August following a vote by the California Air Resource Board.
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