Musk tamps down speculation that Tesla will mine lithium

2nd March 2023 By: Bloomberg

Musk tamps down speculation that Tesla will mine lithium

Tesla CEO Elon Musk

Tesla is more focused on refining lithium than on mining the battery metal, CEO Elon Musk said amid speculation the automaker is mulling the takeover of a miner.

The “limiting factor” is refining lithium, not actually finding it, as no country has a monopoly on deposits, Musk said Wednesday during the electric vehicle giant’s investor day.

Tesla has broken ground on a proposed lithium refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, and aims to start output within a year, said Drew Baglino, senior vice president of powertrain and energy engineering, at the event. The EV giant wants to process lithium concentrates into battery-grade lithium chemicals at the Texas refinery.

The company hasn’t responded to reports it’s been mulling a takeover of miner Sigma Lithium Corp. amid rampant demand for the material crucial to powering EVs.

Automakers have aggressively pushed into mining to lock in supply for batteries as electric-vehicle sales rise. Stellantis took a 14% stake in a McEwen Mining copper subsidiary, and General Motors is said to be vying for a stake in Vale SA’s base metals unit. In January, GM struck a $650-million pact with Lithium Americas to develop a US lithium deposit.

As for nickel — another key ingredient in EV batteries — Musk said it’s only needed for “aircraft, long-range cars or trucks.”

“The vast majority of heavy lifting” of EV batteries will be iron-based batteries, and there’s plenty of iron in the world, he said.