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Is it Time for a GigaMine? Metal Tech News’s Lasley on the Prospect of Tesla GigaMines

Earlier this month, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of tech giant Tesla, made headlines with his call on global mining companies to boost production of nickel, a key component in EV battery technology.

“Any mining companies out there … wherever you are in the world, please mine more nickel,” he said, adding “Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way. (…) Don’t wait for nickel to go back to some high point you experienced five years ago (…).”

Against the backdrop of Musk’s call to action to miners, Shane Lasley, publisher of Metal Tech News, entertains the question of whether Tesla gigamines might be added to the front of the company’s supply chain in a new piece for the publication.

Lasley argues that while Musk’s offer seems to imply that his preference would be for the mining sector to supply nickel, there are “subtle clues” indicating that he would be willing to set up a Tesla mining operation if needed.

Providing context, Lasley writes:

“While Tesla can easily expand battery production by simply building more gigafactories and squeezing more efficiencies out of the enormous facilities already in operation, getting the raw materials to these factories could be the challenge.

This is because Tesla is not the only EV and lithium-ion battery company driving massive new demand for nickel, graphite, lithium, cobalt, and manganese. Every major automobile manufacturer on Earth is rolling out new electric and hybrid models, and new players are emerging in both the EV and lithium-ion battery sectors.”

With the World Bank forecasting that production of metals and minerals like graphite, lithium and cobalt will have to increase by nearly 500 percent by 2050 to meet global demand for renewable energy technology, it comes as no surprise that EV manufacturers are kicking their search for raw materials into high gear. However, as Lasley points out, “there have been no reports of automakers getting directly involved in the business of mining … at least not yet.”

Musk hinted at the possibility of throwing Tesla’s hat into the mining business ring in 2019, but so far, seems to intend to lean on miners to provide necessary supplies. That may change, however, because as Musk stated last year, “[Tesla will] do whatever we have to, to ensure that we can scale at the fastest rate possible.”

Those of us interested to find out more, should probably create a calendar item for September 22 — Battery Day.

Writes Lasley:

“Slated to be held in Freemont, California on Sept. 22, Battery Day is an event where Tesla is expected to showcase its batteries and introduce new technologies. And, given Musk’s prelude, we are likely to learn a lot more about the company’s plans to source the minerals and metals at the front end of its gigafactory supply chain.”

Read Lasley’s full piece here.