Mining in Australia is big business, very big business. The royalties fund much of the government spending at the state and federal level. Providing over 10% of Australia’s GDP, or $200 billion AUS, Australia’s mining companies demand to be listened to. So, when BHP sells its coal and oil assets and starts talking up electric vehicles and the minerals it needs to mine, people listen.
Just two days ago, BHP Nickel West asset president Eddy Haegel announced at the annual Diggers and Dealers conference that BHP expected EVs to achieve global penetration of 25% by 2030. This is much earlier than many industry watchers in the conservative camp anticipated. Most of us in the EV community might say that’s still too conservative.
BHP hit the international news recently when it inked a deal with Tesla to supply nickel. Not just to supply it, but to produce it in an environmentally friendly way. Although BHP believes its Nickel West operations were among the “most sustainable and lowest carbon emission” producers of nickel around the world, Tesla thought there was room for improvement. BHP will now build two new solar farms and a battery energy storage system to help power its operations in Western Australia’s Goldfields region, and cut its dependence on diesel and gas.
The deal is estimated to be worth more than a billion dollars. So BHP is pivoting to nickel (after previously planning to sell off these assets as not part of its core business). BHP is already a leader in the mining of copper.
Meanwhile Australia’s export of lithium from its hard rock mines is growing rapidly. At the moment, it is worth about $1 billion p.a. and projected to reach $6 billion by 2026. Please note this is a vastly different from the environmentally damaging processes used in Chile.
The Australian federal government is encouraging investment in the lithium industry and funding a national lithium research centre to operate out of Curtin University in Perth. This $135 million investment in the future aims to make Western Australia a hub for research in lithium battery manufacturing.
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