Efforts to strengthen Canada’s supply chains for critical minerals were undermined last week when our own government decided not to conduct a national security review into the purchase of a Canadian lithium producer by a Chinese state-owned enterprise.
The decision is bizarre. Lithium, which is on a list of 31 minerals that Ottawa says are critical to Canada’s economy, is imperative to modern manufacturing, including large-scale battery storage needed for clean energy transition and, significantly, batteries for the flourishing electric vehicle (EV) industry.
Now the Zijin Mining Group Ltd is cleared to buy Toronto-based Neo Lithium Corp.
China is establishing global dominance of high-tech manufacturing, including EVs, by having state-owned enterprises acquire foreign intellectual property, technologies and assets. Securing access to critical minerals is essential to that mission.
In the early days of the oil industry, the U.S. quickly established dominance as the world’s most important producer and consumer of petroleum. But over time, depletion in the U.S. and discoveries abroad caused U.S. dominance of the petroleum industry to fade.
The U.S. received a rare second chance to regain energy independence as a result of the shale oil boom. But the lessons we have learned over the evolution of the oil industry have direct implications as the world transitions to new sources of energy.
Petroleum was the raw material that enabled the growth of the global transportation industry over the past century. But increasingly in the next century, it is lithium that will be the critical commodity. U.S. automakers aspire to have 40% to 50% of new vehicle sales by 2030 be electric vehicles (EVs). This will result in a tremendous increase in lithium consumption
It is estimated that the U.S. alone will need 500,000 metric tons per year of unrefined lithium by 2034 just to power EVs. The U.S. produces just a fraction of that today. The current global production of lithium in 2020 was about 440,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE, contains about 18% of pure lithium), and not all of that is in pure enough form for batteries.
But just as the U.S. eventually ceded its petroleum security to foreign countries, it is in the process of doing the same with lithium. According to the 2021 BP Statistical Review, China has 7.9% of the world’s lithium reserves. The U.S. has 4.0%. (The majority of global lithium reserves are in South America and Australia). Nevertheless, China has become the 3rd largest lithium producer in the world, outproducing the U.S. in 2020 by more than a factor of 15.
This dominance didn’t happen by accident. Over the past decade, China has spent over $60 billion to build its lithium industry. U.S. investments have lagged significantly behind, which has enabled China to build a robust lithium supply chain.
Talon Metals plans to use technology it hopes will allow it to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and chemically bind it – and thus permanently store it – to rocks found inside its Tamarack project in northern Minnesota. The process, which is still being tested, would effectively let Talon market nickel as carbon neutral, a huge appeal for Musk and Tesla.
“The current method of simply shredding everything and trying to purify a complex mixture results in expensive processes with low value products,” says Andrew Abbott, a physical chemist at the University of Leicester. As a result, it costs more to recycle them than to mine more lithium to make new ones. Also, since large scale, cheap ways to recycle Li batteries are lagging behind, only about 5% of Li batteries are recycled globally, meaning the majority are simply going to waste.
But as demand for EVs escalates, as it’s projected to, the impetus to recycle more of them is set to barrel through the battery and motor vehicle industry.
The current shortcomings in Li battery recycling isn’t the only reason they are an environmental strain. Mining the various metals needed for Li batteries requires vast resources. It takes 500,000 gallons (2,273,000 litres) of water to mine one tonne of lithium. In Chile’s Atacama Salt Flats, lithium mining has been linked to declining vegetation, hotter daytime temperatures and increasing drought conditions in national reserve areas. So even though EVs may help reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over their lifetime, the battery that powers them starts its life laden with a large environmental footprint.
We can no longer treat the batteries as disposable – Shirley Meng
If the millions upon millions of Li batteries that will give out after around 10 years or so of use are recycled more efficiently, however, it will help neutralise all that energy expenditure. Several labs have been working on refining more efficient recycling methods so that, eventually, a standardised, eco-friendly way to recycle Li batteries will be ready to meet skyrocketing demand.
“We have to find ways to make it enter what we call a circular lifecycle, because the lithium and the cobalt and nickel take a lot of electricity and a lot of effort to be mined and refined and made into the batteries. We can no longer treat the batteries as disposable,” says Shirley Meng, professor in energy technologies at the University of California, San Diego.
Vale is greatest generally known as one of many world’s largest producers of iron ore from its sprawling Brazilian operations — however its chief government desires to alter that.
For Eduardo Bartolomeo, being seen as a “one geography, one mineral firm” is harmful and Vale must be attempting to spotlight the worth of its industrial metals enterprise, which he says has the potential to be a key provider of battery supplies to the North American automotive.
Attaining that can be no straightforward activity. To provide Tesla, Ford, Normal Motors and others with the required copper, nickel and cobalt to scale up manufacturing of electrical autos, Bartolomeo should rework the efficiency of the misfiring metals division.
“We predict we might be the provider alternative,” Bartolomeo instructed the Monetary Occasions throughout a latest go to to London to satisfy traders. “However we have to produce. We have to get the manufacturing up. That’s basic. Then we have to get the reserves and sources.
He has already made one decisive transfer, changing the top of the enterprise, Mark Travers, with Deshnee Naidoo, a former government at India’s Vedanta Assets.
However that is only a first step after, by his personal admission, one other difficult 12 months for the division in 2021, with a labour dispute in Canada, a fireplace on the Solobo copper mine and a short lived halt of nickel manufacturing at its Onca Puma challenge in Brazil. On high of that, 39 staff have been rescued after being trapped within the underground Totten mine in Ontario.
Whereas output is forecast to get well subsequent 12 months, Bartolomeo, who ran the base-metals enterprise earlier than he was appointed chief executive in April 2019, is aware of there may be plenty of work to do if Vale is to fulfil its ambition of capturing 30-40 per cent of the North American marketplace for battery-grade nickel in 5 years.
“We’re speaking to Ford, GM, we’re speaking to all of them,” he mentioned, mentioning that Vale had already struck a deal to promote 5 per cent of its annual highest-grade Class 1 nickel output to a US carmaker, broadly rumoured to be Tesla. A typical electric-vehicle battery pack wants about 35 kilogrammes of nickel, in response to the IMF, whereas charging stations require substantial quantities of copper.
CATL has given China a commanding lead in electric car batteries, a technology central to the broader green revolution. The company already supplies batteries to almost all of the world’s automakers, including G.M., Volkswagen, BMW and Tesla. CATL has emerged as one of the biggest winners of the electric car boom, along with Tesla.
Chinese government officials made sure CATL’s business stayed in Chinese hands. They created a captive market of battery customers. And when CATL needed money, they doled it out.
“CATL definitely seems like it’s the concept and creation of a master plan,” said Michael Dunne, a former G.M. executive in Asia and now an analyst.
Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Ltd has acquired Nicomet, a Nickel and Cobalt producer based in Goa making Vedanta the sole producer of Nickel in India.
“India imports 100% of its Nickel requirements; our focus will be to boost domestic production that would fuel India’s transition to a Net Zero economy,” chairman Anil Agarwal said in a release on Monday.
India’s demand for nickel is currently pegged at 45 KTPA, as per reports, which is entirely met through imports. At present, Nicomet’s plant has a capacity to produce 7.5 KTPA Nickel & Cobalt.
Dec 15 (Reuters) – As they scour the globe for the lithium, nickel and cobalt resources needed to keep China on top in the electric vehicle (EV) stakes, Chinese battery and EV makers are fretting about supply of another mineral closer to home – graphite.
Graphite, in both natural and synthetic forms, is used for the negative end of a lithium-ion battery, known as the anode. Around 70% of all graphite comes from China, and there are few viable alternatives for batteries.