Nickel, Copper, Lithium, Cobalt and Graphite are some of the materials used in batteries for electric cars. Many mining companies will supply these materials, but following pressure from customers, car manufacturers are setting new and stricter requirements for how batteries are produced. The producers no longer accept that the materials have been extracted at the expense of nature, and many will not trade with mining companies using sea disposal. Norwegian companies planning to supply material for electrification, or to produce batteries themselves, should pay particular attention to this international development.
The Finnish mining company Terrafame invests in the construction of the world's largest factory for production of battery nickel in 2021, and director Joni Lukkaroinen recently said: “Customers are keen on sustainability. That is why electrification is moving ahead. European consumers are keen on the provenance of their metal and how it is mined – no child labor, no deep sea tailings – all of these are ‘no goes’ for consumers."
The industrial and mining company Eramet, which has three smelters in Norway, will produce Nickel from a new mine in Indonesia, and refuses to dump the mining waste into the sea. Environmental Director Samuel Dufay recently stated: “This is an old practice from the time of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, an era we thought was over. It is still found today, in 15 of the world's 2,500 mines. It is not to be believed that some mining companies are considering using this in projects that will supply the production of electric cars. Eramet has a clear and firm attitude, we do not want to use this technique." To the European Commission, Eramet writes that sea disposal should be blacklisted: "Using this solution would damage the efforts made to ensure the greening of the entire battery supply chain, hence it must be blacklisted."
Earlier this year, the car manufacturer BMW joined IRMA, a system for environmental standards in mining, which does not accept the dumping of mining waste at sea. Tesla has recently strengthened the environmental requirements for materials for battery production. Not long after Tesla's statement, a Chinese company withdrew its application for dumping of waste at sea from a new Indonesian Nickel mine.
In Norway, there are several companies planning to start production of batteries or to supply materials for production of electric cars and other areas of electrification. International developments indicate that Norwegian companies should stay away from material produced in mines where the mining waste is dumped in the sea, or by using other methods with significant damage to the environment, or violation of human rights. Investors should take note of this.
We recall the decision at the International Convention on Nature Conservation in 2016 (IUCN): "Asks all states to ban the dumping of mining waste at sea for new mines as soon as possible, and to plan a halt to ongoing marine landfills." In 2019, Chile banned dumping after 2023. Now is the time for Norway to follow up, so as not to be completely out of step with international development.
Ingvild Fonn Asmervik and Mads Løkeland-Stai
Naturvernforbundet/ Friends of the Earth Norway