Concerns over the ultimate availability of adequate supplies of lithium and other minerals that are critical to the energy transition have elevated recently. On April 8, Tesla and SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk tweeted that he was considering starting his own mining company in light of rising prices for lithium, which he said had reached “insane levels.”
“Tesla might actually have to get into the mining & refining directly at scale, unless costs improve,” Musk said in his tweet. “There is no shortage of the element itself, as lithium is almost everywhere on Earth, but pace of extraction/refinement is slow.”
All of that is of course true, and the reality and challenges it presents to the renewables and electric vehicles (EV) industries are coming into broader focus and recognition now. Bloomberg reported on April 28 that a 5,000-ton cargo of partly-processed lithium sold for a top bid of $5,650 per ton, 140% above the “insane” prices that prevailed when Musk issued his complaint.
The next day, Reuters reported on rising demand and growing shortages of lithium and other critical minerals in Europe, saying that, as in the U.S., “Europe is running out of time to secure the metals it needs to power the energy transition.”