Demand for minerals such as cobalt, graphite and lithium is forecast to soar in the coming years as governments crack down on vehicle pollution and carmakers step up their investments in electric models.
To cover its plans for more than 80 new models by 2025, Volkswagen (VW) alone is looking for partners in China, Europe and North America to provide battery cells and related technology worth more than 50bn euros ($59bn).
Talks with major cobalt producers, including Glencore, at VW's Wolfsburg headquarters last month ended without a deal.
More than half of the world's cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country racked by political instability and legal opacity, and where child labor is used in mines.
Enjoy curated articles directly to your inbox.