Human rights foundation Amnesty International has published a report slamming automakers like Renault and BMW for their unethically sourced batteries and reliance on coal-powered battery production.

The report, entitled ‘Amnesty challenges industry leaders to clean up their batteries’, claims the raw earth materials used in the production of lithium-ion batteries are linked to human rights abuses such as child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the mistreatment Indigenous peoples living near lithium mines in Argentina. It also claims current-day lithium ion vehicle batteries can pose environmental risks that could “undermine their green potential.”

“Amnesty International has documented serious human rights violations linked to the extraction of the minerals used in lithium-ion batteries, particularly in the DRC,” the report says. “A 2016 investigation found children and adults in southern DRC working in hand-dug cobalt mines facing serious health risks, neither protected by the government nor respected by companies that profit from their labour. Amnesty’s research has linked these mines to the supply chains of many of the world’s leading electronics brands and electric vehicle companies.”

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These companies include Samsung SDI, Apple, BMW, Daimler, Renault and of particular note, Samsung SDI. The Samsung subsidiary is a large supplier of automotive batteries, with its products being found in many modern-day EVs, hybrids and plug-in hybrids. According to Reuters, Samsung SDI is the world’s sixth largest lithium ion battery manufacturer.


Furthermore, the report also raised concern about the environmental impact of battery production. Because most of the lithium-ion batteries used in today’s cars and electronics are made in China, South Korea and Japan, they are often times manufactured in plants powered by coal and “other polluting sources of power,” Amnesty said. Demand for rare earth minerals used in lithium ion battery production has also sparked new-found interest in deep-sea mining, which “will have serious and irreversible impacts on biodiversity.”

“Every stage of the battery lifecycle, from mineral extraction to disposal, carries human rights and environmental risks,” an Amnesty spokesperson said.

The report concludes by saying Amnesty is calling on governments, the auto industry, investors and consumers to “create an ethical and sustainable battery, which can be used for electric vehicles and in the electronic industry,” within the next five years.

[Source: Amnesty International]