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First it was lithium, now it’s cobalt. Factories are churning out only so many batteries, and it’s creating a bottleneck. China is globally the biggest player in lithium, no surprise as it’s also making and buying the most EVs. “This is starting to worry a lot of OEMs,” says Leyland, pointing to the trade war spurred on by a tweet from US President Donald Trump. “People don’t want a single point of failure in their supply chain — you can’t really invest billions of dollars and then overnight, one tweet means an export tariff makes your business unsustainable.” Lithium mines also face protests from farmers in Portugal and indigenous communities in Chile, locking mining efforts in the country, raising questions not only of supply but ethics — with both challenges faced by cobalt. Unlike lithium, much of cobalt is found in one place, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC — with 59 percent of the world’s supply sourced from that country. Among many concerns, there’s evidence of widespread use of child labor, and last year tech companies were sued for their alleged role in the death and injury of children.

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