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Why fully traceable minerals is not a utopia but a necessity for a sustainable future

The transition to electric vehicles (EV) is one of the key contributors to achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. As such, the industry and its suppliers have a huge responsibility for ensuring that their products are sustainably produced, with full traceability and a strong focus on business ethics. However, unlike many other industries, a large share of the raw materials used in EVs – namely minerals and metals – are today mined with no demands imposed on traceability. This makes it the weakest link in the sustainable production process. 

As I have discussed in a previous blog post, some parts of the global mining industry are still faced with substantial problems involving poor working conditions, child labour and armed conflicts. As sustainability demands increase from customers and regulatory bodies, major automotive companies are looking for ways to guarantee that the minerals and metals used in their cars and batteries are produced in an equitable manner.

Learning from established processes

At Eurobattery Minerals, we are committed to providing fully traceable minerals. To this end, we are working to implement measures that will enable us and the industry at large to supply raw materials with full traceability. 

In the mining industry, we often hear that full traceability is not possible. I would like to challenge this and would contend that in some areas, the mining industry has actually been working with traceability for many years. From my previous experience in gold and diamond mining, traceability was one of the most important parts of our business. The model we used there can easily be transferred to higher volume resources. 

Let me explain how it worked. At the end of every day, the gold mined on that day was placed in a special bag, sealed and marked with a unique barcode. The barcode was signed by three different individuals: the geologist of the mine, the MD and a third party representing the authorities. The barcode was then scanned and the package was sent by courier using a fully traceable route to the end customer, who opened the seal and confirmed that the gold received was correct.

Larger tonnage requires new methods

With larger tonnage raw materials, containers are required for transportation and this could potentially increase the risk of manipulating the content. However, the use of this process would dramatically increase opportunities to trace the source of the raw material. One way to add further security to the solution for larger tonnage resources could be to take a sample from the container and seal it in a similar manner to the example above related to gold. This sample is sent together with the container. The raw material in the container is analysed and compared to the sample in the bag when it reaches the refinery. If the two don’t match, it is likely that the raw material in the container has been manipulated or was sourced from another mine. 

I am convinced that we as an industry must introduce this type of traceability, even if the method is not yet perfect. At the same time, we must support the work of other traceability initiatives, such as leveraging block chain technology, AI or other digital tools. 

My vision is that the minerals used in EV batteries will become the strongest link in the sustainability chain.



Best regards,
Roberto García Martínez

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