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16 Jul 2020, 13:50
Benjamin Wehrmann

Joint venture with Russia's Nornickel threatens EU battery alliance's sustainability credentials

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

A cooperation with Russian resource company Nornickel could stain the sustainability credentials of Europe's planned battery production alliance, Bernd Freytag and Niklas Zaboji write in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The company that recently made headlines for causing one of the worst environmental disasters ever in Russia by spilling 20,000 tonnes of diesel fuel in the fragile Arctic ecosystem is set to work together with German chemicals producer BASF on a factory for battery components in Finland to supply carmakers in Europe, for which Nornickel will provide cobalt and nickel. "The Russians are essential for Europe's battery alliance," the authors say. BASF told the newspaper it expects its suppliers "to fully comply with the law and with internationally established environmental, social and governance standards”. But plans by the German government to introduce a supply chain act could mean that expectations alone will not suffice to make Nornickel a viable business partner, since BASF in this case would be held to account for its supplier's failings, the authors write. However, sourcing cobalt in a clean way is a difficult task to begin with, as the bulk of proven reserves is found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the mineral is also often mined far below any environmental or social standards.

Together with other member states, Germany has been advocating hard for a joint European battery production alliance that is supposed to reduce the region's carmakers' reliance on Asian suppliers as e-car production is scaled up. Germany has committed one billion euros to the ambitious project approved by the European Commission in late 2019, while France is investing 700 million euros.

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