How the rise of electric cars endangers the ‘last frontier’ of the Philippines – by Karol Ilagan, Andrew W. Lehren, Anna Schecter and Rich Schapiro (NBC News – December 7, 2021)

This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

PALAWAN, Philippines – Jeminda Bartolome spends her days at the foot of a lush mountain range tending to her rice paddies. A mother of six, she leads a group of farmers and members of the Indigenous Palawan tribe who believe the crop is endowed with a human soul. “That,” she said on a recent afternoon pointing toward her farmland, “is our source of livelihood.”

Bartolome, 56, lives in one of the most biodiverse places on earth, a stunning island that draws legions of tourists to its crystal blue waters and pristine nature reserves. But these days, her livelihood, and the ancient rainforest system it depends on, are increasingly under threat.

A nickel mine stretching nearly 4 square miles scars the forest above Bartolome’s farmland. The mine, Rio Tuba, plays a vital role in satisfying the global demand for a mineral more coveted than ever due in part to the explosion of the electric car industry.

The raw nickel dug out of the ground here ends up in the lithium batteries of plug-in vehicles manufactured by Tesla, Toyota and other automakers, according to an NBC News review of company filings and shipping records.

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