Electric battery maker and coal union announce WVa labor pact

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Energy startup SPARKZ announced Tuesday that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the nation’s largest coal miners union on a labor-management agreement for its proposed coal miner. electric batteries in West Virginia.

The company and United Mine Workers of America will partner to recruit and train displaced miners who will be the plant’s first production workers. In March, the company announced that it would begin construction of the plant this year, which will employ at least 350 workers. The location of the plant has yet to be announced.

“SPARKZ is proud to partner with the United Mine Workers of America to help workers in West Virginia be part of the new energy economy, while rethinking the battery supply chain nationwide,” said said SPARKZ Founder and CEO Sanjiv Malhotra in a press release. “This partnership is a symbol of American innovation and American workers who are literally building our energy future together and fighting to end China’s dominance in advanced batteries.”

West Virginia has lost thousands of jobs in mining and other resource extraction industries in recent years. UMW President Cecil Roberts said the deal “is a win-win situation for the laid-off coal miners who will work at this facility, their families and their communities.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said the partnership “is proof that there is an important role” for the union in the country’s energy transition.

The plant will produce cobalt-free batteries, an effort to reduce the cost of producing lithium-ion batteries in the United States. The Democratic Republic of Congo has always been the world’s largest producer of cobalt, with most mines controlled by Chinese companies.

Earlier this month, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced $3.1 billion in funding to US companies that manufacture and recycle lithium-ion batteries.

In the statement, Granholm said his department is “pleased to support the battery manufacturing industry and labor partners coming together to address clean energy deployment issues, such as workforce development. Momentum is building as more companies see that partnering with the workforce is smart business strategy and the key to accelerating a just transition to clean energy.

SPARKZ, founded in 2019, is in the final stages of site selection and will announce customer partnerships in the coming months. Its first markets will likely be material handling vehicles such as forklifts, agricultural equipment and energy storage.

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