During Tesla’s recent Battery Day presentation, CEO Elon Musk shared this Tesla goal: “We want to try to replace at least 1% of the total vehicle fleet on earth, which is about 2 billion vehicles. So, long term, we want to try and make about 20 million vehicles a year.”
Elon Musk and Drew Baglino discussed several specific metals in the presentation, which brought hopes to miners such as Botswana-based Giyani Metals Corporation, whose CEO, Robin Birchall, spoke with Mining Weekly about the event.
This interview showed how Tesla is breathing life into not just lithium, nickel, and cobalt, but also manganese, a common metal that is in many minerals, including garnets. Birchall shared his three takeaways from Tesla’s Battery Day event with Mining Weekly, noting that it remains similar to what the company has learned from its talks with other potential buyers.
These three takeaways are:
- The importance of the sustainability of the raw materials.
- Manganese, a cathode material, will be used in the majority of the EV market for at least the next decade.
- Vehicle manufacturers are moving further upstream to secure supply.
Manganese was first mentioned by Drew Baglino, Tesla’s SVP of powertrain and energy engineering, in the presentation. “Let’s talk about cathodes. What is a battery cathode? Cathodes are like bookshelves where the metal, the nickel, the cobalt, the manganese or aluminum is like the shelf, and the lithium is the book.”
Elon Musk pointed out that nickel manganese (an alloy comprised of both metals) will be used in intermediate-range applications. Elon also said that manganese would be one-third of the cathode and would allow Tesla to make 50% more cell volume with the same amount of nickel. Birchall explained that this was three times the amount of manganese in an NCM 811 cell, which is what Benchmark Mineral Intelligence thinks will be one of the market-leading cathode chemistries by 2030.
“The event, therefore, confirms our view that there is a growing opportunity for high-purity manganese in the EV market and that Giyani is well-positioned to benefit from this,” Birchall said to Mining Weekly, which noted that cathode manufacturers source high-purity manganese in both sulfate and metal form. This is important since Tesla plans to modify the cathode manufacturing process to make it both sustainable and economical.
Instead of sourcing raw materials in the sulfate form, Tesla is aiming for the powdered metal form. Giyani’s K.Hill project plans to become one of the very few facilities that produce both high-purity electrolytic manganese metals as well as high-purity manganese sulfate monohydrate.
Giyani also noted that a cathode made up of 33% manganese has around 35 kg to 40 kg of manganese metal per kWh. For Tesla, which is targeting 3 TWh of battery capacity production by 2030, this would equate to over 100,000 metric tons of high-purity manganese metal demand per year (100,000 t/yr).
This would just be the demand from Tesla alone. Tesla joins several other battery manufacturers that have increased their battery production estimates for the next decade over the past year. “We expect there to be further capacity increases across the various Tier 1 and Tier 2 battery manufacturers and, therefore, expect demand for high-purity manganese to continue to increase,” Birchall told Mining Weekly.
2019 Prediction On Manganese Growth
Manganese is the fourth most common metal, just after iron, aluminum, and copper. Back in 2019, Investing News (INN) noted that, from 2016 through 2019, the markets for manganese were pretty volatile, with the exception of 2018 when Chinese contracts had less of an impact on supply and demand dynamics. Justin Brown, managing director of Element 25, said that the high-purity manganese market was a two-stage story. “It has the traditional end uses in steel, and that market is fairly stable but has suffered a little bit this year under the US-China trade war,” he told INN. “But once that is resolved, the fundamentals will be restored in that space and prices should improve.”
Looking further back in time and forward several years, the assumption is that this market will do very well. “Five years ago the market was extremely small. We expect a strong growth story around manganese sulfate for batteries, depending on what chemistries are most popular on batteries. [That] will drive how big that growth curve is, but we should see strong growth into the future.”
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