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Blood batteries’ fuel the fortune of Elon Musk

By Zuleikha Ahmed

09:06:2021

Elon Musk, one of the top five wealthiest people globally, has set his mission and vision of making electric vehicles available to the masses.

Cobalt is a crucial component of a battery, but also the most expensive. Recent projections by the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance revealed that the demand for cobalt for use in batteries would grow fourfold in 2030 due to this electric vehicle boom.

Last week, Elon Musk tweeted that batteries for the Tesla Model 3 use less than 3 per cent of a metal called cobalt, and the next generation battery “will use none” of the material.

Some have called cobalt the “blood diamond of batteries.”

More than 70 per cent of the world’s cobalt is produced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and 15 to 30 per cent of the Congolese cobalt is produced by artisanal and small-scale mining. For years, human rights groups have documented severe human rights issues in mining operations, including child labour, fatal accidents, and violent clashes between large mining firms’ artisanal miners and security personnel. The situation has prompted scientists and other groups to look at ways to manufacture cobalt-free batteries.

Cobalt, costing between $33,000 and $35,000 per tonne, is also one of the most expensive metals in electric vehicle batteries. There may not be an adequate or infinite supply, as research from MIT suggests there’s not enough ability to mine and process the material to meet demand. In the next decade, research suggests that demand could reach more than 1.6 times today’s capacity.

So, the question remains: “Will it be more affordable in the future, or will the price fluctuate?”

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