Sep 24, 2020

Tesla powers into lithium mining

Dominic Ellis
2 min
EV maker targets US nickel and lithium resources but production plans and new battery can't halt tumbling share price
EV maker targets US nickel and lithium resources but production plans and new battery can't halt tumbling share price...

Tesla's 'Battery Day' may have been designed as a platform to promote its under-bonnet capabilities but the occasion was dominated by news of a llithium-oriented mining strategy which will power the electric vehicle maker into the next automotive era.

While the new '4680' cell is the latest launch in its ongoing battery cost-cutting journey, offering six times the power of its predecessors, it was production plans for nickel and lithium, announced on a 10,000-acre site in Nevada, which attracted all the headlines. 

Tesla will build its own cathode facility in the US, leveraging "all resources that exist for nickel and lithium" and reducing miles travelled by all materials that end up in the cathode by 80 percent, according to Drew Baglino, Senior Vice President of Powertrain and Energy Engineering at Tesla. 

Tesla, which aims to reach 100 GWh of inhouse lithium-ion battery cell production capacity by 2022 and 3000 GWh by 2030, broke ground on the Gigafactory in June 2014 outside Sparks, Nevada (pictured), which will be powered by renewable sources.

For all the upbeat sentiments - Elon Musk also said he wants to cut the cost of entry-level EVs to $25,000 within three years - Tesla's share price has been sharply in reverse with investors wiping $23.5 billion off the company's share price, which dropped 10.3 percent and closed at $380.86 (down more than $50 billion since Monday). 

Commentators reacted cautiously to the production plans, citing issues over permit processes, water access and unproven methodologies. Morgan Stanley said lithium stocks were likely "to react negatively".

However the electric car industry will dominate demand for lithium in the next decade. A Cornish mining firm, Roche-based British Lithium Limited (BLL), was awarded £500,000 last month to research and develop hard rock lithium extraction, which could eventually attract electric car battery gigafactories to the UK.

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Jun 29, 2021

Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations

battery metals
2 min
Vale’s $150mn investment in operations at Thompson, Manitoba will extend mine life by 10 years

Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.

Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel

The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.

“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.

“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”

Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba

Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.

“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.

“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”

The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history.  Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.

“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.

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