German carmaker BMW said Sunday it is seeking clarity on operations at a Moroccan cobalt mine following a newspaper report citing irregularities that breach labor and environmental laws.
BMW has contacted local supplier Managem with a range of queries and requested additional information, a spokesperson for the company told Reuters.
“If there is any misconduct, it must be remedied,” the spokesperson said, adding there had been initial allegations in the summer against Managem but the documents provided to BMW had looked credible. Managem’s environmental certificates were up to date, he said.
Daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung’s Nov. 13 print edition will say its reporters have collaborated with broadcasters NDR and WDR in research finding serious violations of environmental and labor protection regulations at mines in Morocco, according to the advance online edition of the paper.
The report said that excessive levels of arsenic were found in water samples and that Managem was not complying with international standards for the protection of workers and acting against critical trade unions.
Managem is majority-owned by the Moroccan monarchy and operates several mines in several African countries.
Cobalt is needed for electric car batteries, among other applications.
By far the largest proportion of the world’s cobalt deposits are in the Congo, where child labor still occurs, particularly in small mines.
BMW no longer sources cobalt from the Congo, said the BMW spokesperson. A fifth of its intake came from Morocco, and the remainder from Australia.