Volkswagen Group’s commitment to sustainable lithium mining in Chile

Volkswagen Group’s commitment to sustainable lithium mining in Chile

In 2020, as part of their human rights risk assessment programme, the Volkswagen Group and Daimler started a ground investigation in Chile. Now, with the recent addition of BASF and Fairphone, they are carrying out a new project with local stakeholders to develop a joint action plan.

Managing natural resources such as lithium responsibly is essential in order to develop all-round sustainable electric mobility. That’s why several companies have joined forces in a “Responsible Lithium Partnership�, initiating a project in Chile’s Salar de Atacama. Besides the Volkswagen Group, the cross-industry partnership comprises BASF, Daimler and Fairphone. Its aim is to foster a dialogue among local stakeholders, generating and synthesizing scientific facts and seeking solutions in a participatory manner.

Lithium mining

As a result of the expansion of e-mobility and digitisation, and given it is a key material in batteries, the demand for lithium is expected to grow in the future. The world’s largest lithium reserves and a large part of the total global production are located in the Salar de Atacama area of Chile.

The region’s ecosystem is fragile and there is a lack of consensus regarding the risks of lithium mining on nature and its impact on other economic activity in the region. Potential risks to the environment and local livelihoods derive from brine and water table shifts. Addressing such complex issues effectively requires the collaboration of stakeholders.

A shared platform

The GIZ – Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (the German Agency for International Cooperation) – works in the field of development and will coordinate the partnership between companies. It will seek to find common ground by building a multi-stakeholder platform among all relevant actors in the Salar de Atacama area, ranging from civil society groups, including indigenous communities and government institutions, to mining companies and beyond.

The platform aims to facilitate a common understanding of the status quo and jointly develop a shared vision for the future of the Salar de Atacama watershed by setting out a joint action plan. Its aim is to improve the long-term management of natural resources and take the first steps towards implementation.

The importance of data

Another aim is to synthesise and verify the technical data available, improve on it if necessary, and boost its accessibility. The Responsible Lithium Partnership has been active since spring 2021 and will have an initial duration of two and a half years. It should be emphasised that it does not intend to facilitate the sourcing of lithium nor the purchase or selling of any raw mineral.

The Volkswagen Group, BASF, Daimler and Fairphone are fully aware of their responsibility along the entire supply chain, including their human rights due diligence for raw material sourcing and production. The Responsible Lithium Partnership aims to promote sustainable development, helping to reduce potential negative impacts and strengthen the protection of human rights.

A holistic approach

The Responsible Lithium Partnership shows that in today’s highly interconnected value chains, responsible business conduct is not only based on collaborating with business partners, but also relies on constructive engagement with governments and civil society. As such, the Partnership takes a holistic approach and seeks to connect all local stakeholders with the aim of establishing a joint vision for the Salar de Atacama.

Source: Volkswagen Newsroom

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