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Electric vehicles: Germany's BMW probes Morocco labour, environmental exploitation

Clouds hang over the headquarters of German carmaker BMW, in Munich, Germany

Clouds hang over the headquarters of German carmaker BMW, in Munich, Germany

German carmaker, BMW has said it is seeking clarity on operations at a Moroccan cobalt mine following a newspaper report citing irregularities that breach labour and environmental laws.

BMW 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 November 13 print edition say its reporters collaborated with broadcasters NDR and WDR in research finding serious violations of environmental and labour protection regulations at mines in Morocco.

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 labour 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.

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