LONDON, Nov 2 (Reuters) – The world’s biggest miner BHP’s response to the electric vehicle debate is to hunt for new reserves of copper and oil, while seeking a buyer for its assets to produce battery-grade nickel and steering clear of lithium and cobalt.
Arnoud Balhuizen, chief commercial officer at BHP, has said 2017 marks a “tipping point” for electric vehicles in that they have entered the mainstream of metals demand forecasting. In terms of sales, however, the mass move is further off as hybrids and conventional cars stay on the roads for a transition period.
Balhuizen estimates that shift would be around 2030, which is also when BHP expects demand for oil from light vehicles to peak. Other forms of oil demand, including from industry and heavy goods transport, are likely to be more sustained.
So far, for BHP, the one real change linked purely to electric vehicles is BHP’s decision to invest in its Nickel West operations in Australia to produce nickel sulphates required by battery-makers. The assets, however, are for sale.
“If we get the right price, we would sell it,” Balhuizen said in an interview. “We’re not actively in discussion, but it remains non-core.” As a huge company whose strength lies in producing big volumes of bulk commodities, battery minerals, such as nickel, as well as lithium and cobalt, are not a priority.