Every sector in the economy is now participating in the Green Wave; from conservation, recycling, repurposing, “single use”, to the massive energy / resource tsunami. It’s become clear that we can no longer ignore global warming and its effects on the planet. Fire storms in western USA, extreme heat in Australia, glacier melts in Greenland, droughts in East Africa – among the many other natural disasters currently occurring – help highlight the importance of acting now. Let’s take a deeper dive into the impact this is having in the electric vehicles (EV) sector and, subsequently, in the strategic mining of lithium, cobalt, and graphite.
Energy usage improvements are one of the most valuable progresses in the mining industry
Energy usage improvements are occurring globally. Examples include Canada Steamship Lines running on second-generation biodiesel made from inedible biomass, or airlines using sustainable feedstock fuels (SAF) made from waste oil or animal fat. Furthermore, electric buses, garbage trucks, and taxis are now very common in many cities across the globe with double digit annual growth.
The EV push is great for business as we see from the market caps of GM, Ford, Volvo, Nissan, and the seemingly unstoppable Tesla surging in recent months. They are all changing minds and practices on what type of personal vehicles, buses, and boats that we will drive in the future. Many car manufacturers are even getting involved in the materials & metals supply chains throughout the manufacturing lifecycle of their vehicles.
The growing popularity of electric vehicles and the metals, minerals, and other materials they require
With a focus on green vehicles, the growing discussion is on that critical battery. Per Mining.com, this is now a $27 billion a year business and is forecasted to grow to $127 billion by 2027 as consumers embrace more affordable EV options. Other experts are more optimistic and predict more than double that amount in 5 years ($300 billion).
EV cars now come in various applications to include EV, PHEV, HEV and S/S, each with their own technical performance targets, such as low charge to fast charge. So, there continues to be a huge demand for metals and other resources for the manufacturing of millions of new batteries.
There are about twelve elements that are essential ingredients for batteries. The three most vital are carbon (found in graphite), cobalt and lithium.
Where do the materials, minerals and metals for EV batteries come from?
Currently, the top ten battery manufacturers are in Asia; but that is likely to change for newcomers in the US, Europe, and Canada. The first market introduction of lithium-ion batteries was in 1991. The modern Information Age has enabled advances in semiconductor and computing technology mostly due to the rise in lithium-ion batteries (LIB).
In the past, lithium was used to treat mania and mood swings. In the 1950s, Canada was a player in the international lithium market, providing tons of the salt. At that time, the market failed. But now, in 2021, Canada may tap into its massive lithium reserves given the current battery market opportunity. Currently, most global lithium comes from Australia and Chile, and two thirds of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Across Canada there is a flux of government support such as in Ontario’s Ring of Fire Mining region. The Canadian Prime Minister declared making EV production a national policy objective. Additionally, there is an agreement with US President Joe Biden to build an EV supply chain between the two countries. Some projects already underway include a graphite mine 150km north of Montreal, a lithium mine in Quebec, and a cobalt mine in the Northwest Territories. Each province and territory has projects to mine these strategic metals. EVs are just one example of the impact coming from disruptive technologies.
For mining companies, turning disruption into opportunity lies in the market trends that will create the demand for these specific minerals, and this is happening now. Nomadis is also a key player in the resource sector, supporting miners in Canada and around the world with its best-in-class workforce logistics solution.