Tesla recently hired a geologist, which many be a step in the direction of lithium and critical materials mining. There’s no official announcement that Tesla will actually do its own mining, and there could be other reasons that it’s hiring geologists. It could be a focusing on critical minerals and the supply chain in order to better understand potential suppliers and the market as a whole. Tesla already has partners in this field, and remember, Tesla is also partnered with Panasonic yet is making its own batteries due to the high need for batteries. Proof you can do two things at once.
— Whole Mars Catalog (@WholeMarsBlog) April 13, 2022
A few days ago, my buddy @WholeMarsBlog posted the above tweet which shows that Tesla has already hired at least one geologist. Drive Tesla Canada reported that Tesla posted a job for a Senior Policy Associate in the field of critical minerals and supply chain in Toronto. This implies that Tesla sees Canada as an ideal resource center for its factories in Fremont and Austin. Although this job is more related to the battery supply chain rather than mining itself, it shows that Tesla isn’t shy about dotting all of its “i’s” and crossing its “t’s” on these subjects.
The article noted that Tesla isn’t the only automaker that wants to work with Canadian companies to source battery and critical materials, and pointed out that Canada has quite a bit of nickel. The article also touched upon Canada’s environmental and sustainable governance strategy.
Lithium Prices Are Insane
In a tweet shared by Tesla CEO Elon Musk just after the Cyber Rodeo event in Texas, Elon brought up the price of lithium, noting that it has gone up massively. Although there’s not a shortage of lithium itself, the pace of extraction and refinement is slow. He added that Tesla might actually have to get into both the mining and refining directly at scale.
Price of lithium has gone to insane levels! Tesla might actually have to get into the mining & refining directly at scale, unless costs improve.
There is no shortage of the element itself, as lithium is almost everywhere on Earth, but pace of extraction/refinement is slow.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 8, 2022
CleanTechnica has covered this portion of the market for a few years and has long raised alarm bells about the price of lithium rising drastically (just as it has) if more investment and larger, longer-term contracts weren’t initiated in order to increase lithium production. Here are just a few podcasts on the topic:
In another tweet this past week, Pranay Pathole pointed out that with just the lithium in Nevada alone, it would be possible to convert the entire US vehicle fleet to electric, and Elon agreed. During Tesla’s Battery Day event in 2020, Elon Musk emphasized the massive amount of lithium on earth, and Pranay’s tweet below echoed what Elon said.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 8, 2022
Elon said, “Lithium is not like oil. There’s a massive amount of it, pretty much everywhere. In fact there’s enough lithium in the United States to convert the entire United States fleet to electric, all the cars in the United States. Like 300 million or something like that. Every vehicle in the United States can be converted to electric using only lithium that is available in the United States.”
Drew Baglino, Tesla’s Senior Vice President of Powertrain and Energy Engineering, was also on stage with Elon and the two pointed out that they meant the lithium that had already been discovered — what they know to already exist. Drew added that people haven’t even been looking, and Elon elaborated further.
“Yeah, people haven’t been trying because it’s just widely available. But it is important to say, ‘Okay, what is the smartest way to take ores and extract the lithium and do so in an environmentally friendly way?’ And we actually discovered … again, looking at it from a first-principles physics standpoint, instead of just the way it’s always been done, is we found that we can actually use table salt, sodium chloride, to basically extract the lithium from the ores. Nobody’s done this before — to the best of my knowledge, nobody’s done this. And all the elements are reusable, it’s a very sustainable way of obtaining lithium. And we actually got rights to a lithium clay deposit in Nevada. Over 10,000 acres. And then the nature of the mining is actually also very environmentally sensitive in that we sort of take a chunk of dirt out of the ground, remove the lithium, and then put the chunk of dirt back where it was. So, it will look pretty much the same as before, it will not look like terrible. And, yeah, it’ll be nice.”
I wrote about Tesla and the mining industry in 2019. In that article, I recapped what Tesla owner Sean Mitchell said in a YouTube video. He pointed out that it just makes sense that Tesla would eventually get into the mining industry. This was around the time Tesla acquired Maxwell and Hibar, and he pointed out that it was fundamental to Tesla reducing the cost of its battery packs. You can read that article, which includes Sean’s video, here.
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