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Photography by Jeremy Glyn for ERG Africa in May 2022

SAUDI ARABIA - Green Economy

Benedikt Sobotka

CEO, Eurasian Resources Group (ERG), and Co-Chair, Global Battery Alliance

Bio

Benedikt Sobotka is the CEO of Eurasian Resources Group (ERG), a leading diversified natural resources group headquartered in Luxembourg with operations in more than 16 countries and with over 80,000 people working for it globally. Mr Sobotka has extensive experience in the mining and energy sectors. As a former member of BCG, he advised multiple top-tier companies worldwide, including Germany, Russia, South Africa and the UK, and has held various management positions. He is a Co-Chair of the Global Battery Alliance (GBA), the world’s largest multi-stakeholder organisation in the energy storage sector, which now has more than 135 members. At the WEF Davos 2023 meeting, the GBA – of which ERG is a founding member –  announced the world’s first Battery Passport proof-of-concept. As ERG’s CEO, Benedikt is also a Founding Member of ReSource, a joint blockchain initiative of battery supply chain majors. He sits on the WEF Governors Steering Committee for the Metals and Mining Community and the Steering Committee for the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI). He is also an advisor to the Hainan International Energy Exchange. He is an investor in high-tech startups, including MVS that was sold to Platts/Dow Jones in 2015. He graduated with an MA in Management from the WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management and has also studied at the Rotterdam School of Management, CEIBS Shanghai, and the Moscow Finance Academy. He is a co-author of “China Champions”, a Financial Times top 10 bestseller on success strategies for investment in China.

"Batteries are key to unlocking the energy transition, and in order to realise the green energy transition, the mining and key minerals industry must rise to the challenge."
TBY talks to Benedikt Sobotka, CEO of Eurasian Resources Group (ERG), and Co-Chair of Global Battery Alliance, about low-carbon transition and the question of sustainable battery production.
The digital revolution we are going through, the low-carbon transition and the need for energy security, are leading to a growing global demand for batteries to power vehicles, devices, and energy systems. How is the demand expected to evolve over the medium term?

Batteries are key to unlocking the energy transition, and in order to realise the green energy transition, the mining and key minerals industry must rise to the challenge of delivering on the biggest purchase order in our history – the supply of key transition metals. In the medium term, the demand for batteries is expected to grow exponentially, as markets race to meet ESG, sustainability, and net-zero policy commitments. A recent report produced by McKinsey in collaboration with the Global Battery Alliance (GBA) posited that the entire li-ion battery chain could grow by over 30% annually from 2022 to 2030, meaning it would reach a value of more than USD400 billion by 2030. The historic growth in sales of EVs will only be realised if the mining sector is able to keep pace with the dramatic rise in demand. The sector will need to sustainably increase output across existing mines, in locations such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Brazil, whilst exploring resource extraction opportunities in new jurisdictions. This year, ERG announced a new partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where we are working to support its Vision 2030 roadmap by investing in mineral exploration in the country. We are deploying the latest technologies, such as the Mars Rover, to expedite the discovery of key metal deposits. Scaling-up industrial output will not come without challenges. ERG has committed to long-term ESG and sustainability goals. We have instituted significant programmes, such as our partnership with international NGO the Good Shepherd International Foundation in the DRC, to protect and promote the communities that live and work near our sites. We cannot let ESG commitments fall to the wayside as we scale-up production, which is why we have co-founded several initiatives – the Global Battery Alliance and Re|Source – to work with partners and stakeholders across the globe to establish a responsible battery value chain.

ERG is a strategic associate partner of the World Economic Forum and a founding member of the Global Battery Alliance: how is the Group—and the Alliance—managing the skyrocketing demand for battery metals in a sustainable manner?

ERG has robust frameworks in place to ensure the responsible production of battery metals. The Group delivers responsible value chain assurance through our own Clean Cobalt and Copper Framework at Metalkol RTR in the DRC, which is the world’s second-largest cobalt producer and a major copper supplier. We received PwC’s independent assurance of the Clean Cobalt and Copper Framework for the second time, which verifies that Metalkol RTR goes beyond current OECD guidance and practices. However, the power of the Global Battery Alliance is that it is the world’s largest multi-stakeholder organisation to act industries and drive change throughout the entire battery value chain. The GBA comprises over 130+ organisations, including governments, automotive manufacturers, miners, technology companies, and NGOs. As Chair of the GBA, I had the honour of unveiling the world’s first Battery Passport at this year’s Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The Battery Passport is the GBA’s flagship initiative, establishing a digital twin of a physical battery that conveys information about all applicable sustainability and lifecycle requirements. The prototypes unveiled at Davos include example data from Tesla and Audi on their batteries’ technical specifications, material provenance, and sustainability performance. The Battery Passport will bring new levels of transparency to the global battery value chain by collecting, exchanging, collating, and reporting trusted data among all lifecycle stakeholders.

Can you elaborate on Re|Source, the digital platform that the Group has recently implemented to track the sustainability standards of minerals? How will it enable a sustainable supply chain of the industry?

ERG co-founded Re|Source in 2019 along with global mining companies Glencore and CMOC and Web3 solutions expert Kryha. In essence, Re|Source is a blockchain platform for end-to-end traceability, that is designed to guarantee the provenance and traceability of key battery materials such as graphite, cobalt, lithium, manganese and nickel. It offers a real-time tracking solution to trace battery materials from the upstream to downstream and manages the sustainability performance of battery metals from mines to OEMs. Recently, Re|Source successfully delivered and presented two of the first pilots for the GBA’s Battery Passport proof of concept. This involved mapping and tracing 100% of the cobalt used in the battery through the entire cobalt supply chain from the mines in the DRC to EV factories. This marked the first successful end-to-end real-time tracking of physical materials through the supply chain. Re|Source ultimately helped to issue the Battery Passport, aggregated and processed supply chain data, and calculated the relevant ESG metrics. This was a key breakthrough in demonstrating the capability of this technology to be a force for good. The success of the pilots was made possible thanks to the collaboration between ERG, Albemarle, CMOC, Glencore, Kryha, LG Energy Solution, RCS Global, Tesla, Umicore, the GBA and others. This further highlights the importance of multi-stakeholder partnership in achieving industry-wide supply chain improvement.

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