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Automakers Move into Mining

The shift toward electric vehicles has touched off a move by auto manufacturers into the mineral-mining sector, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription). 

What’s going on: The ever-growing interest in “EVs has triggered a scramble to lock in supplies of lithium, nickel, graphite and other materials core to battery making, much of which are currently mined and processed outside the U.S. in places such as China and Australia. The specter of an eventual EV battery shortage is pushing car companies to get more directly involved in the mining business.”

Why it’s important: As they continue investing billions of dollars into EV factories, the dearth of available lithium—“the workhorse of rechargeable batteries”—remains a problem.

  • “Processed-lithium demand is expected to far outstrip supply in [the] coming decade unless the mining industry dramatically expands production, analysts and producers say.”

Partners, not just buyers: Auto manufacturers “began to realize the mining firms didn’t only need buyers—they needed partners to help shoulder upfront investments, say executives involved in the conversations.”   

Aiming to solve the problem: So earlier this year, General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis announced plans to get into the mining game.

  • In January, GM said it would invest in a joint venture with Canadian mining company Lithium Americas, under which it gets exclusive rights to the lithium extracted from the Thacker Pass site in Nevada. The site is one of the largest known sources of lithium in the U.S.
  • Ford said recently it would buy equity in an Indonesian nickel mine, while Stellantis said it plans to invest $155 million in an Argentine copper mine.

The last word: “The NAM has taken a leading role in driving the permitting reform discussion and consistently advocates for a commitment to developing our country’s natural resources,” said NAM Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy Brandon Farris.

  • “Doing so will strengthen our supply chains for critical minerals that are vital to our national security.”​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​
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