EV Makers Confront the ‘Nickel Pickle’ – by Jon Emont (Wall Street Journal – June 4, 2023)


Large amounts of the mineral are needed for electric car batteries, but getting it out of the ground and refining it often requires clearing rainforests and generating large amounts of carbon

In the electric-vehicle business, the quandary is known as the nickel pickle. To make batteries for EVs, companies need to mine and refine large amounts of nickel. The process of getting the mineral out of the ground and turning it into battery-ready substances, though, is particularly environmentally unfriendly.

Reaching the nickel means cutting down swaths of rainforest. Refining it is a carbon-intensive process that involves extreme heat and high pressure, producing waste slurry that’s hard to dispose of.

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OPINION: Mining companies need to look at new ways to reduce biodiversity impacts – by Tom Drabble (Benchmark Minerals.com – May 22, 2023)


Critical mineral deposits crucial to the clean energy transition can be found across the globe. As mining companies cannot control where geological deposits form, they are forced to tackle whatever challenges are present in the location of which they are found. One of the largest challenges within the environmental “E” of ESG is how to prevent biodiversity loss due to company operations.

It is crucial that biodiversity is considered and appropriately monitored at all stages, from acquisition through to mine closure and rehabilitation. Strategies for biodiversity management of a mine site should begin with an environmental impact assessment and mitigation strategies and targets set.

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Report: EV battery making riddled with rights violations, environmental threats – by Subel Rai Bhandari (Radio Free Asia – May 16, 2023)


Companies including Panasonic, Tesla, and Toyota should check their supply chain, rights group says.

Human rights violations and environmental abuses were found in two nickel supply chains in the Philippines and Indonesia, home to more than half of the world’s supplies. They provide batteries to companies including Panasonic, Tesla, and Toyota, said a report released Tuesday by a rights research group.

The lack of transparency in electric vehicle battery supply chains means end-user companies must be held responsible, as they can easily distance themselves from the lower-level abuses and avoid addressing associated risks, the London-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) said in its report “Powering Electric Vehicles.”

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Future of Canada’s mining industry hangs on who gets U.S. subsidies, with nickel the ‘litmus test’ – by Gabriel Friedman (Financial Post – May 17, 2023)


Execs worry a quirk in the Inflation Reduction Act could allow nickel powerhouse Indonesia to qualify for tax incentives, making it almost impossible for North American companies to compete

Last month, Republican congressman Pete Stauber of Minnesota penned a pointed letter to United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai before she embarked on a trip to Asia.

“I write to express concern over recent comments by Indonesian government officials that the country is seeking to enter a limited free trade agreement with the U.S., to increase trade of critical minerals needed for EV batteries and other renewable technologies,” Stauber said in the letter, dated April 14.

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LME Fights to Regain Trust After Last Year’s Nickel Crisis (Bloomberg News – May 16, 2023)


(Bloomberg) — The embattled London Metal Exchange is still trying to rebuild faith in its nickel contract after an epic short squeeze last year, according to Chief Executive Officer Matthew Chamberlain.

The crisis last March, when the metal used in stainless steel and electric vehicle batteries spiked 250% in little more than 24 hours, brought the venerable LME to the brink of collapse. It raised doubts about the exchange’s viability as the world’s benchmark pricing mechanism for nickel and was followed by plunging trading volumes and frequent wild price swings.

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The New EV Gold-Rush: Automakers Scramble to Get Into Mining – by Mike Colias and Scott Patterson (Wall Street Journal – May 15, 2023)


A scarcity of EV battery materials pushes car companies and miners to work closer together; for both, there is a learning curve

When General Motors began outlining plans in 2020 to fully switch to electric vehicles, it didn’t account for one critical factor: Many of the battery minerals needed to fulfill its plans were still in the ground.

“I remember seeing a report from our raw-materials team at the time saying, ‘There is plenty of lithium out there. There is plenty of nickel’,” said Sham Kunjur, an industrial engineer now in charge of securing the raw materials for GM’s batteries. “We will buy them from the open market.”

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To Meet EV Demand, Industry Turns to Technology Long Deemed Hazardous (Japan News/Washington Post – May 12, 2023)


OBIRA ISLAND, Indonesia – On a remote island close to where the Pacific meets the Indian Ocean sits one of the first refineries built specifically to support the world’s transition away from fossil fuels. Rocks unearthed here contain traces of nickel, a key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries. Extracting it, refining it and readying it for export is a gargantuan task.

More than $1 billion has been sunk into the processing facility, the first in Indonesia to use an acid-leaching technology to convert low-grade laterite nickel ore – which the country has in abundance – into a higher-grade material suitable for batteries. Foreign investors and lenders cite the project as evidence of their commitment to fighting climate change.

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Pro Take: Can Nickel, Cobalt and Other Battery Metals Be Sourced Sustainably? – by Yusuf Khan (Wall Street Journal – May 11, 2023)


Environmental worries over Indonesian nickel are being used to build a case for deep sea mining

As companies and countries withdraw their support for seabed mining, the about-face is raising broader questions about how metals used in battery production are sourced and the scale of the associated environmental costs. The sourcing of nickel particularly has been in the spotlight.

Last week, A.P. Moller-Maersk became the latest company to drop its investment in The Metals Company, a prospective seabed miner based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Lockheed Martin and Norway’s Storebrand also have recently sold their interests in deep-sea mining companies.

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The Nickel Pickle: Everyone wants Indonesia’s nickel. But Xiang Guangda was there first. – by Eliot Chen (The Wire China – May 7, 2023)


The floodlights at Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park stay on throughout the night. Around the clock, more than 40,000 workers operate the 8,000 acre site, which just ten years ago was nothing but dense rainforest on Sulawesi, Indonesia’s fourth largest island. Today, the sprawling park, which many refer to simply as “IMIP,” is home to a port, an airport, dormitories for Chinese workers, a four-star hotel and three mosques.

At its core, however, IMIP exists to smelt and refine at enormous scale a single mineral: nickel. Long a key ingredient in stainless steel, nickel is increasingly wanted for the production of lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles. By 2040, the International Energy Agency estimates that clean energy technologies will account for as much as 70 percent of total nickel demand.

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Column: Nickel faces huge supply glut as Indonesian output booms – by Andy Home (Reuters – April 27, 2023)


LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) – The nickel market is facing a massive supply glut this year as surging Indonesian production continues to outpace global demand. The International Nickel Study Group (INSG) is forecasting a supply-demand surplus of 239,000 tonnes, the largest in at least a decade and a significant increase from last year’s excess of 105,000 tonnes.

It also represents a lift from the Group’s last assessment in October, when it expected a surplus of 171,000 tonnes for this year. Demand expectations have been tempered, although nickel usage is on track to register healthy 6.1% growth in 2023. It still won’t be enough to absorb the wave of new production coming out of Indonesia.

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Indonesia’s nickel boom tests Western green sensibilities (The Economist – April 13, 2023)


Making batteries for electric vehicles requires environmental and geopolitical trade-offs

In a miserable year for initial public offerings, Indonesia’s capital is turning heads. The Jakarta Stock Exchange enjoyed record IPO volumes in the first quarter. The $800m raised in these flotations outstripped the sums drummed up on Hong Kong’s or New York’s stock exchanges in the same period.

The bulk of the money came from the listing of Pertamina Geothermal Energy, a green subsidiary of the state oil-and-gas giant. It may have been just the start of Indonesia’s clean-energy IPO boom. On April 12th Harita Nickel, a firm that processes the battery metal, pulled off the country’s biggest IPO in almost a year, raising nearly $700m at a valuation of around $5bn. Later this month Merdeka Battery Materials, another nickel firm, aims to raise more than $500m.

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JPMorgan Has Made Deep Cuts to Metals Business After Nickel Crisis – by Alfred Cang, Jack Farchy and Eddie Spence (Bloomberg News – April 13, 2023)


(Bloomberg) — JPMorgan Chase & Co. has cut dozens of base metals clients and slashed bankers’ bonuses, as the business remains under harsh internal scrutiny in the wake of last year’s nickel crisis.

JPMorgan, Wall Street’s biggest player in metals, has been reviewing its commodity exposure for over a year after it played a prominent role as the biggest counterparty of the Chinese company at the center of the nickel short squeeze on the London Metal Exchange. It was also a financier of the top Chinese copper trader whose business ground to a halt after a liquidity crisis last year.

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Exclusive: U.S. Role in Notorious Nickel Mine Deal Revealed – by David Brennan (Newsweek Magazine – April 6, 2023)


Guatemala may have become the latest battleground in America’s bid to gain a foothold in the race for strategic metals dominated by China amid a remarkable proposed acquisition of a notorious nickel mine worth $1 billion, Newsweek can reveal.

A memo obtained by Newsweek indicates that, with the support of the U.S. government, the Guatemalan assets of the Switzerland-based Solway Investment Group—which were put under U.S. sanctions amid allegations of Russian influence peddling and ecological devastation—are in line for acquisition by a Canadian company for a “substantial discount.”

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Ford signs nickel smelter deal with Vale Indonesia, Huayou (Nikkei Asia – March 31, 2023)


Equity investments are part of $4.5bn development of Sulawesi block

JAKARTA — Ford Motor has signed a definitive agreement with the Indonesian unit of Brazilian mining giant Vale and Chinese battery materials producer Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt for joint investments in a nickel smelter project in Indonesia.

The three companies are making equity investments in the development of a high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL) plant in Pomalaa Block, Vale’s nickel mining and processing complex on the southeastern part of Sulawesi island that broke ground in November. Vale earlier said that investments are estimated to reach up to 67.5 trillion rupiah ($4.5 billion) to develop the block’s mining operations and refinery.

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Exclusive: Indonesian president pledges nickel mining clean up amid EV-led boom – by Gayatri Suroyo (Reuters – March 30, 2023)


SOROWAKO, Indonesia, March 30 (Reuters) – Indonesia will improve monitoring of environmental standards for nickel mining, amid concerns over production of the metal which is increasingly used in electric vehicle batteries, the country’s President Joko Widodo told Reuters on Thursday.

The Southeast Asian country, which has the largest nickel reserves in the world, will step up scrutiny of mining and order companies to manage nurseries to reforest depleted mines, said the president, who is widely known as Jokowi.

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