Elon Musk will hire a 3rd party organization to investigate Tesla’s supply chain for Cobalt, a rare mineral in order to assure shareholders and others that Tesla does not exploit child labor in any way. Elon was asked, during the Q/A portion of the shareholder’s meeting on May 16, 2023, to do this, and he agreed.
I had the honor of attending the meeting in person and I saw firsthand when Elon said this from the stage. He emphasized that the phones we all use have more Cobalt than Tesla’s batteries, and that he’s thinking of installing webcams at the mines to make sure no child is ever harmed.
I turned to Eliza Bleu for a little more understanding on this issue, as she had been asking me recently about Tesla’s supply chain and I had referred her to some information from Tesla’s recent Investor’s Day, summed up well in a tweet by Martin Viecha, Tesla Investor Relations,
“If you want just one takeaway from Investor Day, make it this one: A sustainable economy will result in *less* mining/extraction than we currently do. *Zero* rare earths are needed for this transition. Too many smart people I know believe the opposite.” – Martin Viecha
In addition, Elon Musk has also emphasized how clean Tesla’s supply chain is for it’s batteries. Tesla’s Lithium and Iron based batteries do not contain any Cobalt, while those made with Nickel use a very small amount of Cobalt as a binder.
Please watch Tesla’s videos on Investor Day and Shareholder Meeting 2023 for reference. Also, Tesla’s next gen motor will require ZERO rare earth minerals. Less mining and extraction are also needed for a clean energy future as compared to a fossil fuel based economy.
MY INTERVIEW WITH ELIZA BLEU
Gail: Do you find that company CEOs are willing to face the challenge of creating a clean supply chain for rare earth minerals like cobalt?
Eliza Bleu: I’ve found that there is a vast difference between what CEOs are being told and the in-depth research that has been done by folks like Siddharth Kara, author of “Cobalt Red,” on the ground. It would be incredible if CEOs sought the truth and worked aggressively to find solutions!
Gail: When you heard that Elon Musk is going to hire a third-party organization to do this for Tesla, what was your first reaction?
EB: I’m a survivor advocate, so any little glimmer of hope brings a tear of joy to my eye. I take a moment to enjoy the positive progress before I think about the long road ahead. I applaud Mr. Musk for making those statements. I believe that he will follow through and continue to set the industry standard.
Gail: What is your expectation, for companies that use a lot of rare earth minerals, like companies that produce the phones that we use every day? Do you think they will continue to use components in their products that require rare earth minerals?
EB: The time has come for this conversation to fully see the light of day. I expect tech companies to seek the truth about their supply chains from start to finish. The entire industry will move away from cobalt eventually but between now and then there should be drastic measures to ensure that child labor and human exploitation is not used. Even when companies move away from cobalt it won’t repair the damage done to the Congolese people. It also won’t account for the labor trafficking and human exploitation in other parts of the supply chain. Apple is notoriously bad in this way.
The tech industry is uniquely positioned to provide those that work in the mines with basic needs like electricity, water and PPE. The brightest minds in the world can prioritize these issues. I’m grateful for Tesla’s commitment. I have hope around this issue and the first step is getting everyone to admit that there is a problem industry wide. The next step is to cut through the PR nonsense and to put humans over profits. The future of technology is bright but it cannot be built on the backs of children.
Tesla is one company among many that uses cobalt. I hope that Mr. Musk’s commitment sparks a long overdue industry wide conversation.
Despite challenges, there is hope that other CEOs will confront the issue of clean supply chains for rare earth minerals like cobalt.
Elon Musk’s decision to involve a third-party organization for Tesla sets a positive example, and it is crucial for the entire industry to engage in transparent discussions and prioritize human well-being over profits to drive meaningful change.
Article by Gail Alfar, please credit accordingly.