GM Partners with Glencore to Source Cobalt Needed for EV Batteries

General Motors Co. in Detroit and Glencore in Switzerland today announced a multi-year sourcing agreement in which Glencore will supply GM with cobalt from its Murrin Murrin operation in Australia.
2024 Silverado EV RST
GM has signed an agreement with Glencore to source cobalt for its EV batteries, which will be used in the company’s upcoming lineup of EV’s like the Chevrolet Silverado EV (pictured). // Courtesy of Chevrolet

General Motors Co. in Detroit and Glencore in Switzerland today announced a multi-year sourcing agreement in which Glencore will supply GM with cobalt from its Murrin Murrin operation in Australia.

Cobalt is an important metal in the production of EV batteries, and the cobalt processed from Australia will be used in GM’s Ultium battery cathodes, which will power electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Silverado EV, GMC Hummer EV, and Cadillac LYRIQ.

The agreement seeks to create strong and sustainable supply chains through collective industry and multi-stakeholder platforms. Both Glencore and General Motors are members of the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI), and Glencore’s Murrin Murrin operation is conformant with the OECD-aligned Responsible Minerals Assurance Process.

The challenge of sourcing metals and other materials is compounded by the fact that the elements needed to make lightweight rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles also are used to store power from wind and solar plants. The production of various metals used in batteries is set to increase significantly over the next decade — and that could cause serious ecological problems.

In the case of cobalt used in EV batteries, 60 percent of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where large numbers of unregulated mines use children as miners. Miners also can breathe in cobalt-laden dust that can cause fatal lung ailments while working tunnels that may be prone to collapse.

Cobalt is a metal that makes up 0.001 percent of the earth’s crust. It is known for its heat-resistant properties and is added to lithium-ion battery cathodes to improve energy density and battery longevity.

“GM and our suppliers are building an EV ecosystem that is focused on sourcing critical raw materials in a secure sustainable manner,” says Jeff Morrison, vice president of global purchasing and supply chain at GM. “Importantly, given the critical role of EVs in reducing the carbon footprint of the transportation sector, this agreement is aligned with our approach to responsible sourcing and supply chain management.”

By the end of 2025, GM plans to have capacity to build 1 million electric vehicles in North America, and has announced a series of actions to create a new and more secure EV supply chain, including projects targeting key EV materials and components:

  • Cathode Active Material (CAM) with POSCO Chemical. GM and POSCO Chemical are building a new facility in Quebec, Canada, as part of their joint venture to produce CAM for GM’s Ultium batteries.
  • Lithium with Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR) to secure lithium produced by the first stage of its Hell’s Kitchen Project in California.
  • Rare earth materials with GE, to develop a rare earth value chain.
  • Alloy flakes with MP Materials, who will establish the first North American processing site for alloy flakes. The company will then expand into magnet manufacturing around 2025 at its new production facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
  • Permanent magnets with VAC, the largest producer of permanent magnets in the Western Hemisphere with nearly 100 years of experience. VAC will establish a North American footprint to support GM’s magnet requirements starting in 2024, including locally sourced raw materials and finished magnet production.

“We are delighted to announce this collaboration and support General Motors in delivering its electric vehicle strategy,” says Ash Lazenby, U.S. Cobalt marketer and trader at Glencore. “Future facing commodities like cobalt play a pivotal role in decarbonizing energy consumption and the electric vehicle revolution.”

Glencore, which has its headquarters in Baar, Switzerland, is a large global diversified natural resource companies and a major producer and marketer of more than 60 commodities. It employs around 135,000 people, including contractors, in 35 countries.

Glencore’s customers are industrial consumers, such as those in the automotive, steel, power generation, battery manufacturing. and oil sectors. It also provides financing, logistics, and other services to producers and consumers of commodities.