Electric cars spark lithium, nickel and cobalt mining boom – by Marcus Leroux (The Australian – December 28, 2016)


The China boom has come and gone but miners say a new scramble for resources looms, triggered by the dawn of the electric car age.

The motor industry is placing huge bets on electric cars becoming mainstream over the next decade. Miners have been busily looking under the bonnets and inside batteries and decided that they will have to dig up a lot more lithium, copper, nickel and cobalt.

Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer controlled by Elon Musk, has said that it would require today’s entire worldwide production of lithium ion batteries to meet demand for its target of half a million cars in the second half of the decade.

That means a lot more lithium to feed 14 battery mega-factories that have sprung up around the world, mainly in China. Annual demand for lithium is expected to rise from 16,500 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent to between 120,000 tonnes and 240,000 tonnes by 2025, according to analysis from Investec.

Wood Mackenzie estimates that lithium demand will double before 2024, with the vast majority of the growth coming from electric vehicles. Lithium hydroxide prices almost trebled in this year, according to Benchmark Minerals, which is predicting further strong growth this year.

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