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BMW Group commissions study on sustainable lithium extraction.

BMW Group are working to insure it uses sustainable supply chains and has recently commissioned two renowned American universities to conduct a scientific analysis of water consumption in the lithium extraction process. The University of Alaska-Anchorage and University of Massachusetts-Amherst will together study and investigate the impacts of lithium extraction on the hydrologic environment in Latin America.

BASF SE will financially contribute to the study. Both companies - BMW Group and BASF SE - are already working together in another sustainability initiative, the “Cobalt for Development” project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Lithium the lightest metal found on earth is used for manufacturing batteries, its also used in ceramics, glass and aluminium. Lithium is an essential raw material for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles.

The study is vital as two thirds of the world’s lithium reserves are found in Latin America. BMW and BASF will be the first to initiate a study as there has not been any substantial scientific research into how lithium extraction impacts the region.

Patrick Hudde, head of Indirect Purchasing Raw Materials Management, BMW Group: “Electromobility can only be sustainable when the raw materials are also extracted in the most sustainable manner possible. The new study we have commissioned is designed to create a scientific basis for identifying the best options for sourcing lithium. We are delighted to work with two such renowned universities on this study and are certain it will generate important new knowledge about lithium extraction.”

Professor LeeAnn Munk, University of Alaska Anchorage, Department of Geological Sciences: “Partnering with BMW on this ground-breaking lithium sustainability project is extremely exciting for our research group and we are eager to develop the best tools to be used in assessing lithium projects on a global scale.”

David F. Boutt, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Department of Geosciences in the School of Earth & Sustainability: “This project represents a critical next step in advancing the understanding of hydrologic functioning of lithium brine-fresh water aquifer systems with the goal to reduce uncertainty in environmental impacts.”

The results of the study are expected to be completed in the first half of 2022, and they will include a five-tier rating system. This rating is designed to provide companies with solid guidance and support, for carrying out sustainable lithium extraction in Latin America.

The study is essential for BMW Group who want to source sustainably extracted lithium for use in its fifth generation of high-voltage batteries, they plan to make them available to its battery cell supply chains. They currently source from Australian mines which use hard rock mining to extract the material.

BMW Group will only enter supply contracts with additional Lithium suppliers who meet high sustainability standards, the suppliers must get certified by the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA). The study commissioned by the company hopes to provide additional information in this context.

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