NEW YORK, Aug 28 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Water problems could leave the burgeoning market for green cars high and dry. Ford is the latest to ramp up its electrification efforts with a planned joint venture with China’s Anhui. Trouble is, the industry relies heavily on the Democratic Republic of Congo for cobalt to make electric vehicles’ lithium-ion batteries.
Players like BHP Billiton need secure water supplies for their cobalt-mining operations. They also are big consumers of electricity, which is produced mostly by hydropower. With the Congo River running near 100-year lows after two years of drought, blackouts are a big risk.
Wastewater – the theme of the World Water Week conference that kicked off in Sweden on Sunday – is another problem. Adding untreated industrial sludge back into the river basin would make a bad situation worse: the majority of Congolese already lack access to safe drinking water.
Miscalculating water issues can be costly. Barrick Gold spent $5 billion on its Pascua Lama gold mine, which is still mothballed four years after a Chilean court forced its closure, citing pollution problems. BHP Billiton had to spend almost $2 billion on a desalination plant to ensure it had enough water for its operation in that country.
Electric vehicles will have to play a big role if governments and companies are to carry out the Paris climate-change accord and keep the globe’s temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius.
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