‘Battery arms race’: how China has monopolised the electric vehicle industry

Tesla’s factory in Shanghai now produces more cars than its plant in California.

Electric Car, China

27/11/2021 6:00:00 PM

Tesla’s factory in Shanghai now produces more cars than its plant in California.

‘Battery arms race’: how China has monopolised the electric vehicle industry. Chinese companies dominate mining, battery and manufacturing sectors, and amid human rights concerns, Europe and the US are struggling to keep pace

of a 95% stake in nearby Kisanfu copper and cobalt mine for $550m.Fellow Chinese corporate giant, Huayou Cobalt owns or has a stake in at least three copper-cobalt mines in DRC and is a key player at every step of the cobalt supply chain, from mines to refineries to battery precursor and cathode production.

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But China’s dominance of DRC’s copper-cobalt mines comes at a price, according to claims by Congolese workers employed at them.“The Chinese treat Congolese very badly. They like to insult us. They like to raise their voices. Even for a small fault, you’re punished. The Chinese are there as the boss to control Congolese,” says a worker employed at Sicomines, a mine majority-owned by a Chinese consortium, which includes Huayou Cobalt.

Tesla’s Shanghai super factory now produces more cars than its California plant.Photograph: Barcroft Media/Getty ImagesWorkers at Sicomines claim they are paid less than Chinese workers who do the same jobs, and are subjected to degrading treatment by Chinese supervisors. headtopics.com

“It’s the same as during the colonial times but now we’re under the Chinese,” says another worker.Yet Amnesty International, which has conducted investigations into human rights abuses in the informal mining sector in the DRC, says the nationality of the companies dominating the EV market is not their primary concern.

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“The issue is that many of the Chinese mining companies are refusing to be transparent about their operations, but the human rights issues related to cobalt mining in the DRC did not arrive with the Chinese: the DRC has a long history of foreign players coming to the country and exploiting their resources with little accountability,” says Mark Dummett, programme director at Amnesty International.

“Amnesty is extremely concerned about the impact that mining for electric car batteries is going to have on communities around the world; it has the potential to be devastating if the brands at the top don’t use their leverage to demand that these new global supply chains are set up in a way that respect human and environmental rights.”

Chinese mining companies point to the contributions they make to DRC’s revenues and local communities, while working in a challenging environment.One Chinese manager says, “It’s very frustrating to work with the Congolese government. It’s the most corrupt country.” headtopics.com

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Analyst Christian-Geraud Neema Byamungu, says labour laws are not always respected and corruption is widespread in the country as a whole, which potentially could create an environment in which companies are not inclined to follow the rules.Some car and battery manufacturers are beginning to

reduce the amount of cobalt

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