A lithium producer for carmakers including BMW and Tesla is beginning work to assess battery metals projects in Xinjiang, deepening links between electric vehicle supply chains and a region at the heart of human-rights allegations against China.

Ganfeng Lithium, China’s top producer of the material, is partnering through a subsidiary with a state-backed entity to accelerate exploration for and potentially develop lithium, nickel and other critical metal assets in the region. Ganfeng’s Chairman Li Liangbin earlier this year visited Xinjiang — where activists and Western governments say Uyghurs and other Muslim citizens have been subjected to forced labor — to discuss cooperating with the local government on the plans.

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