LONDON (Reuters) – The need for larger rechargeable batteries and more energy storage for 5G technology is expected to significantly boost demand for cobalt over coming years and potentially pit the sector against electric vehicle makers.
Category Archives: Metals
The fundamental challenge is economic. America’s goal should be secure supply chains, not national autarky of supply. The U.S. should do this by promoting domestic production; diversifying mineral imports away from China; cooperating with allies to insulate each other from Chinese control; developing multiple alternative supply chains; stockpiling rare earths to create shock absorbers in case of a crisis; and reducing demand by investing in alternatives.
Start with the fundamentals. Rare-earth elements exist in small quantities not easily separable from surrounding detritus. Significant known deposits exist in China, Brazil, Canada, Australia and India, as well as in the deep seabed. Sixteen of the 17 rare earths exist in the U.S. at a single west Texas site currently under development.
Their extraction and treatment is expensive and environmentally damaging, yet they are essential to $7 trillion in finished products. Wealthy countries have made licensing harder and raised other barriers, pushing the industry to China and Malaysia, where low labor costs and weak environmental enforcement make them economical.
As a report this year from the Colorado School of Mines concluded, “China’s strength is in refining those Rare Earth oxides into metallic alloys to manufacture end-products.” Breaking China’s monopoly will require development of processing plants and supply chains outside Beijing’s control.
China dominates the global market in rare-earth minerals, producing 70% of the world’s exports. But this isn’t a gift of nature — it’s the result of 15 years of industrial policy. The Chinese government identified a critical economic chokehold, invested in building companies, subsidized production to underprice and ultimately destroy competition, and then constructed a monopoly.
The global battery market to power EVs and consumer electronics and to store renewable energy on power grids will be worth about $116 billion a year by 2030, BloombergNEF forecasts, up from around $28 billion now. The U.S. is on course to capture only a small piece of that.
American and German automakers dominated the 20th century, pioneering and continually improving the internal-combustion engine. Japan and China, which industrialized later, were left to play catch-up. But now Asia—led by China and South Korea—leads the way in developing cheap, powerful technology for the EV era.
U.S. industries will suffer if rising battery demand is met only by foreign companies, experts say, and job losses in the already shrinking auto sector will be even greater if cell production is concentrated overseas.
BHP has confirmed that it will open its Nickel West sulphate plant in Western Australia this financial year after the development was delayed.
NASA has announced it is looking for private companies to go to the moon and collect dust and rocks from the surface and bring them back to Earth.
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BRUSSELS, Sept 3 (Reuters) – The European Commission added battery element lithium to its
critical raw materials list on Thursday and set out a plan to guarantee their supply to support a green
The European Union needs to diversify its sources of materials, ranging from silicon to rare earths,
the Commission said, an issue highlighted after global supply chains were disrupted when the
COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The EU executive, which first drew up a list of critical raw materials in 2011 in response to
booming commodity prices, said it had added lithium, aluminium ore bauxite, titanium – used in
aerospace and for orthopaedic implants, and strontium.
Midland Exploration Inc said on Monday it had struck a funding deal with a subsidiary of BHP Group Plc for nickel exploration in the Canadian province of Quebec.
The company’s partnership with Rio Algom Ltd to explore nickel in Nunavik comes as demand for the metal surges from use in automotive batteries to power electric cars.
As the world’s largest producer of nickel, Indonesia has been eyeing a more strategic position in the global supply chain for the development of lithium batteries and eventually, electric cars.
he government announced last year the start of development of an approximately $3.2 billion car battery factory in Morowali, Central Sulawesi, backed by Chinese battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), among others.
Battery-maker PT International Chemical Industry, widely known for its ABC battery product, has also committed to pouring Rp 207.5 billion ($14 million) worth of investment to build lithium ion battery production facilities, commercial production of which is to commence by 2021, according to the Industry Ministry.
The company aims to produce 25 million lithium ion cell batteries per year, equivalent to 256 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity.
Despite the challenges, Nizam said Indonesia had a huge potential for EV battery demand in the future due to its population size, the growth of the global EV industry and the government’s support for low-emission vehicles.
According to his calculation, if 10 percent of scooters and motorcycles in Indonesia were converted into electric scooters, the demand for electric power through batteries would reach 15 gigawatts, adding that electric scooters could become the primary choice for short-haul vehicles in the future.
“Electric motorcycles and battery producers should aim to reach a range of 100 kilometers per charge for the motorcycle to reach its economic factor,” he said.
Europe has now overtaken China – not long ago responsible for every other electric car sold worldwide – as the globe’s largest EV market.
The MINING.COM EV Metal Index, which tracks the value of battery metals in newly sold passenger EVs around the world surged 64% in June, after dropping to its lowest level since January 2018 in April.
The jump in raw material deployed in June lifted the value of battery raw materials tracked by the index in newly-sold EVs to $184 million for the month.
At $794 million year-to-date, the index is still more than 25% below 2019 levels although, as testament to the youth of the electric vehicle market, is almost double the value of the same period in 2017.
European carmakers favour higher energy density, longer-range NCM (nickel-cobalt-manganese) cathodes, which together with Tesla’s NCA (nickel-cobalt-aluminum) account for the vast majority of batteries in passenger EVs.
The continued adoption of nickel-rich cathode chemistries like NCM811 (which Tesla also uses in China for higher range models instead of NCA) also boosted raw material values per vehicle with the first half 2020 nickel sub-index surpassing the full year 2017 total.
The battery mix is likely to change this year, with LFP (lithium-iron-phosphate) units gaining market share, not least because Tesla has opted for this technology for its entry level Chinese Model 3s where range is less of a concern for motorists.
The proportion of NEVs sold in China installed with LFP batteries increased to just over 16% from January through July, an increase of 14% compared to the same period in 2019.
LFP batteries are significantly cheaper than NCM, but not likely to catch on outside China for light-duty vehicles, meaning market share growth should not come at the expense of cobalt, nickel and manganese demand.
When including the stationary energy storage market, LFP is likely to grow its share more rapidly with estimates of as high as 30% of the battery market by 2030, from 10% currently.
August 13 (Reuters) – European battery makers are gearing up to take advantage of massive “green” stimulus packages unveiled since the coronavirus pandemic though many acknowledge it will be tough to match the Asian giants that dominate the mainstream market.
While Sweden’s Northvolt, and more recently France’s Verkor, are making a play for large-scale production, other European companies are focusing on niche markets and new technologies rather than taking on Chinese and South Korean firms with mass production of batteries destined for electric vehicles (EVs).