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UK: Government and Britishvolt must be 'transparent and honest' about environmental and human rights risks of sourcing metals

Two young children crouch and sort through rocks to find cobalt, a key metal used in the manufacture of car batteries
The mining of key metals such as cobalt for car batteries has been linked to slave labour, including that of children (pictured) © Amnesty International/Afrewatch

Responding to news that the UK government will be investing £100m in Britishvolt's new so-called 'gigafactory' in Northumberland to boost production of electric car batteries, Richard Kent, Researcher on Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International, said:

“The news of a £100m investment in a major new Britishvolt manufacturing plant is a great leap forward for British industry – offering jobs and a very meaningful opportunity for the UK to decarbonise transport in the fight against climate change.

“However, it is absolutely crucial that the UK government, Britishvolt, as well as its investors ensure there are proper due diligence systems in place, and that they are honest and transparent about the environmental and human rights risks Britishvolt faces in sourcing cobalt, lithium, nickel, copper and other battery metals.

“Many of these risks emanate from appalling working conditions amounting to modern slavery in countries such as DRC where much of the world’s cobalt is sourced and environmental damage arising from lithium extraction in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia.

“The battery chain has many stages where human rights violations can occur, including in China where some of the metals are refined.”

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