BMW probes Moroccan cobalt supplier over pollution claims
by AFP Staff Writers
Frankfurt, Germany (AFP) Nov 13, 2023
German carmaker BMW said Monday it had opened an investigation into a Moroccan cobalt supplier after allegations that its mining operations had polluted the environment.
The mine operated by Managem in Bou Azzer, southern Morocco, had released excessive amounts of arsenic, according to a joint investigation by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and two broadcasters, which was released at the weekend.
“BMW immediately opened investigations and asked our supplier Managem” for an explanation, the Munich-based car giant said in a statement.
“If any wrongdoing on the part of the supplier is actually proven, the BMW Group will of course demand immediate corrective action.”
Dangerous levels of arsenic were detected in water samples from a valley near the mine, a chemist was cited as saying in the media reports.
Current and former employees at the mine also reportedly claimed that Managem was breaching international standards for protecting workers.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung said that Managem rejected the allegations and said it adhered to high environmental and labour standards.
In 2020, BMW signed a cobalt supply contract with Managem valued at 100 million euros ($107 million) that runs until 2025.
Cobalt is among the critical minerals for making electric car batteries, and automakers are competing to secure supplies as the shift from the combustion engine gathers pace.
But manufacturers are facing challenges in finding suppliers that adhere to strict labour and environmental standards.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, is the world’s largest producer of cobalt, but its mines are plagued by allegations of dire working conditions, child labour and corruption.