As the costs for key minerals in electric vehicle (EV) battery production continue to rise, carmakers are looking to secure supply by venturing into the mining world. Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) is reportedly looking at buying Brazilian lithium mining company Sigma Lithium (TSXV:SGML) (NASDAQ:SGML) to help with battery production and supply a major component to its yet-to-be-built lithium refinery near Corpus Christi, Texas. Sigma’s Grota do Cirilo property, the largest lithium hardrock deposit in the Americas, is still in the development phase, but has already achieved pilot-scale production and is moving to commercial exploration with the goal of producing 104,200 tonnes of LCE annually. Tesla isn’t the only carmaker moving into the market, Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM) have both signed deals to secure battery metals. The two companies were also recipients of the Government of Canada’s Innovation, Science and Economic Development’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), alongside Alberta’s leading lithium developer and extraction technology innovator E3 Lithium (TSXV:ETL) (OTCQX:EEMMF).
E3 Lithium has continued to reach important milestones in developing its 24.3 million tonnes of inferred lithium resources in Alberta. On March 2, the company outlined its 2023 goals and strategic vision to move towards producing battery-grade lithium from its significant Alberta-based resources.
“With a clear strategy in place, this year E3 is set to deliver on the most significant milestones in the company’s history,” commented Chris Doornbos, President & CEO of E3 Lithium. “We are confident that successfully achieving these milestones will firmly establish E3 as a leader of sustainable, locally supplied battery-ready lithium products, and will position E3 for success, as it looks to move from development into commercialization following the success of our pilot.”
Last month, E3 Lithium revealed that its Lithium Ion-Exchange (Li-IX) pilot plant is on track to start operations in the third quarter of 2023.
After making significant progress last year, E3 is in the process of completing the final engineering, design and construction plans for the pilot plant and expects to commission equipment on site this summer.
Li-IX technology will be put to the test at the pilot plant to see how it works for direct lithium extraction on a larger scale. Showing Li-IX technology at the pilot scale greatly reduces the risk of the commercial design.
“The pilot plant is a major milestone for the company, and we are extremely excited about the progress we’ve made towards constructing and operating it this year,” said Chris Doornbos, E3 Lithium President and CEO. “Demonstrating the Li-IX extraction technology in the field advances the company significantly towards delivering battery grade lithium to market; it’s the paradigm shift needed for E3 to move towards our lithium plant design and eventual production.”
E3 Lithium also announced it has received $4.9 million since Q3 2022 from the exercise of warrants from equity financings completed on December 17, 2020 and February 8, 2021. The remaining 3.4 million warrants outstanding belong to Imperial Oil, which were prepaid for a total of $6.35 million and expire in June 2024. E3 currently has 64.4 million issued and outstanding shares.
Carmakers Are Investing for a Future Powered by EVs
Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk and California Governor Gavin Newsom visited Tesla‘s new engineering center in California, where Musk revealed that the facility will be the company’s new worldwide engineering headquarters. Tesla has purchased a former Hewlett-Packard building in Silicon Valley, mostly to strengthen its AI and R&D capabilities. The Governor now has unprecedented access to Tesla‘s rapidly expanding AI program. The unveiling of this new AI-focused office comes on the heels of the release of Tesla’s long-awaited v11.3 FSD software.
On February 13, Ford (NYSE:F) announced it will invest $3.5 billion to create the country’s first automaker-backed LFP battery factory, providing customers with a second battery technology within Ford’s EV lineup. When production of LFP batteries begins in 2026, this factory, known as BlueOval Battery Park Michigan, will initially employ 2,500 people. Ford will be able to expand its battery capacity at its Marshall, Michigan, plant, which will be a completely owned Ford subsidiary. Ford and its battery tech partners have announced $17.6 billion in investments in electric car and battery production in the United States since 2019, as part of the company’s goal to invest more than $50 billion in electric vehicles globally through 2026. According to the methodology of a 2020 independent research, these investments will result in more than 18,000 direct jobs in Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Missouri over the following three years, as well as more than 100,000 indirect jobs.
General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Vale Canada Limited, a division of Vale S.A., have signed a term contract for the long-term supply of battery grade nickel sulfate from Vale’s projected factory in Bécancour, Québec, Canada. With the help of this agreement, GM will have access to nickel sulfate from a U.S. free-trade partner to meet its rapidly expanding EV production requirements in North America. For use in GM‘s Ultium battery cathodes, which will power a variety of electric vehicles, including the Chevrolet Silverado EV, Blazer EV, and Equinox EV, the Cadillac LYRIQ, the GMC Sierra EV, and the GMC HUMMER EV Pickup and SUV, Vale will provide battery grade nickel sulfate, which is equivalent to 25,000 metric tonnes of contained nickel annually. There is enough nickel inside to make about 350,000 electric vehicles each year. The goal is for deliveries to start in the second half of 2026.
On February 13, Sigma Lithium (TSXV:SGML) (NASDAQ:SGML) announced the production of continuous sequential batches of crushed lithium material and the completion of commissioning of its crushing circuit of the Greentech Plant, both on time and in accordance with previously provided guidance on December 20, 2022 and January 23, 2023. Sigma Lithium also announced the start of thorough engineering and capital expenditure costing for the Greentech Plant expansion (Phase 2 & 3) at FEL-3 precision by getting firm quotations from suppliers. The Greentech Plant expansion is planned to enhance run-rate output of Battery Grade Sustainable Lithium from 270,000 tpa to 766,000 tpa.
E3 Lithium has recently added four additional technical and functional positions to its team in order to assist the execution of the company’s expansion ambitions.
Featured Image @ Depositphotos
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