SAFE Releases Recommendations on Developing EV Battery Supply Chains for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth

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Report outlines findings from industry-government workshops hosted with the U.S. Department of State in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia

Washington, D.C. and Cape Town, South Africa—SAFE, through its Ambassador Alfred Hoffman Jr. Center for Critical Minerals Strategy (Minerals Center), is publishing recommendations previously shared with the U.S. government to improve standards, security, and transparency in global mineral supply chains by empowering lower-income, minerals-rich countries to move beyond extraction and develop advanced mineral economies while meeting surging global demand for energy transition projects.

The Issue Brief: Developing EV Battery Supply Chains for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth emerged from two Electric Vehicle Battery Council Workshops, part of a tripartite MOU between the United States, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Facilitated by SAFE’s Minerals Center with the U.S. Department of State and hosted in Zambia and the DRC in September 2023, the workshops included a delegation of experts from industry, academia, federal agencies, the national labs, and other international partners to determine actionable next steps.

In November 2023, the Minerals Center and the State Department inked the Minerals Investment Network for Vital Energy Security and Transition, or MINVEST, initiative, which brings the private sector to the table to support the goals of the Mineral Security Partnership (MSP). SAFE is the sole NGO partner to the State Department to support the goals of the MSP through engaging the private sector. To this end, the Minerals Center co-hosted several events at Mining Indaba with Under Secretary Jose Fernandez, EXIM Chair Reta Jo Lewis, Deputy U.S. International Development Finance Corporation CEO Nisha Biswal, Prosper Africa Coordinator British Robinson, and their respective senior staff to emphasize the workshop findings and recommendations.

Workshop objectives included:

  • Distilling Congolese and Zambian perspectives on current mining activities;
  • Sharing U.S. best practices on establishing sustainable, viable, and transparent value chains that include refining, manufacturing, and export;
  • Creating an attractive environment for U.S. and Western investors to counterbalance China;
  • Overcoming infrastructure challenges and reliability concerns; and
  • Level-setting on what it takes to build battery cells and create a holistic battery ecosystem

To advance these objectives, SAFE suggests that the U.S. Government could:

  • Focus efforts on delivering visible projects to reaffirm U.S. commitment and seriousness. Tangible investments in commercial-scale projects will not only help diversity critical mineral supply chains, but provide the U.S. government with leverage to negotiate advancements in other diplomatic and programmatic efforts to promote responsible mining, combat child labor, enhance transparency, and improve resource governance.
  • Link existing and future production facilities and special economic zones with the Lobito Corridor Project by crowding in public and private investment to local transportation and power infrastructure.
  • Increase knowledge transfer and technical education programming in the region to enable capacity building and knowledge transfers in mineral exploration, refining, and manufacturing. A special focus should be given to geologic mapping and exploration since the best-known deposits in the region are already licensed and much of the minerals produced in the region are locked in contracts to be shipped to China. The feedstock for U.S. industry will come from new mines or the tailings piles of abandoned mines.
  • Help create a step-by-step roadmap with a graduated process for Zambia and the DRC to move down the minerals value chain. The Li-Bridge alliance can serve as a potential model.

Abigail Hunter, Director of the SAFE’s Center for Critical Minerals, said:

“The DRC and Zambia want to transform their mineral wealth into economic development, while the U.S. and partner nations need security and transparency in mineral supplies. These workshops and recommendations are part of the tactical groundwork needed to drive higher standard projects forward.”

The U.S. government is already mobilizing around these recommendations. Earlier this week, the MSP announced an MOU between the DRC’s GECAMINES and Japan’s JOGMEC to advance the development of the Lobito Corridor as part of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment—a “milestone collaboration, forged through dialogue among MSP partners.”

The Minerals Center intends for this brief to serve as a resource for future engagement with Zambia, the DRC, and their respective Battery Councils. This issue brief may also serve as a source of transferrable knowledge for future engagements with other minerals-rich countries with similar economic development goals.

“Where minerals come from and how they are produced has profound consequences for America’s national security and economic competitiveness—U.S. leadership and multilateral alignment is necessary to undermine the Chinese Communist Party’s control of these vital resources,” said Robbie Diamond, Founder, President and CEO of SAFE. “We thank the State Department for their commitment to building diverse, secure, and transparent mineral supply chains and will continue to work hand in glove to bring governments, industry, and experts together to advance meaningful solutions.”

In March 2023, SAFE published A Global Race to the Top: Using Transparency to Secure Critical Mineral Supply Chains,outlining a vision for how the United States can work with its partners and allies to create higher standards in global mineral supplies.

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About SAFE’s Center for Critical Minerals Strategy
The Ambassador Alfred Hoffman, Jr. Center for Critical Minerals Strategy aims to secure all aspects of the critical minerals supply chain to help empower the United States to lead in the connected, autonomous, shared, and electric vehicles future with a focus on the entire minerals life cycle upon which these sectors rely.

 About SAFE
SAFE is an action-oriented, nonpartisan organization committed to transportation, energy, and supply chain policies that advance the economic and national security of the United States, its partners, and allies. SAFE’s expert staff works with the Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC), a peerless coalition of Fortune 500 CEOs and retired four-star military officers, to drive secure, resilient, and sustainable policy solutions. Visit secureenergy.org to learn more.