Biodiversity Footprints of EV Battery Technologies: Comparing the Biodiversity Impacts of Metal Mining

Main Presenter:    Michael Götz 

Co-Authors:   René Itten                                               

The increasing electrification of our mobility is driving the demand for raw materials to produce electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Even with optimal battery recycling rates, enormous amounts of minerals and metals will need to be mined in the coming years to meet this demand. There is an urgent need to move away from fossil-fueled mobility, but resource extractions, like the mining of nickel, lithium, cobalt or manganese, have an impact on the environment and biodiversity. Many mining areas and deposits are located in highly sensitive ecoregions with high biodiversity. The biodiversity impact of mine development and infrastructure construction in these regions could lead to rapid degradation of these ecosystems.
As part of a multi-year research project, a case study is being developed to analyze and compare different EV battery technologies in terms of their resource requirements and associated biodiversity footprint. To this end, remote sensing data will be combined with supply chain data, life cycle inventory databases and biodiversity impact assessment methodologies. The aim is not only to directly compare different battery technologies, but also to locate biodiversity hotspots within the EV battery supply chain.
This first case study focuses on lithium mined in Chile and nickel mined in New Caledonia in order to illustrate how spatial information and remote sensing imagery can improve biodiversity impact assessments and life cycle inventories of mining. These mining regions reflect two very different ecoregions, with New Caledonia’s tropical island climate, rich in endemic and endangered species, and Chile’s desert salt flats with their complex hydrogeology and fragile habitats. Both these ecosystems pose fundamental challenges for the biodiversity assessment in life cycle assessment.
The biodiversity impact assessment of each metal will be combined with current life cycle inventory models for EV batteries and, together with the trade statistics for the respective metal, the supply chain for each battery technology will be mapped and potential actors, traders and companies in these supply chains will be identified in order to attribute the biodiversity impacts accordingly.
This will provide a starting point for a more resolved assessment the biodiversity impacts in the supply chains of different EV battery technologies, individual mine sites, mining companies and mining investment portfolios.

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