Addressing mining for the growing EV market

Written by: Jane Marsh

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It’s no secret that Tesla dominates the electric vehicle (EV) market, but many other car manufacturers – like Chevrolet, Hyundai, Toyota, Volkswagen and Ford – are getting in on the action. New EV models emerge every year with more environmentally conscious consumers buying eco-friendly vehicles than ever before.

A critical component of any EV is the battery powering it. Most EV batteries are lithium-ion, but other minerals are needed to create these batteries. How can companies in the mining industry meet the needs of EV manufacturers?

Rising Demand for Minerals as EV Sales Increase

EV sales are booming right now. In 2021, nearly 7 million EVs occupied the roads. The rate of EV sales demonstrates the increasing demand for vehicles in general and provides a glimpse of what the future looks like for EVs.

For more consumers and businesses to buy EVs, manufacturers need a massive supply of various metals and minerals to build EV batteries. However, activities in the mining industry are something of a hot topic.

Climate advocacy groups are pushing organizations to stop mining, which contributes to air pollution. When extraction professionals open mines, toxins enter the environment and threaten the air quality in the surrounding environment.

The environmental implications of mining are unlikely to stop manufacturers from importing the materials needed to build EV batteries. However, the federal government aims to revitalize the American economy by bringing manufacturing and mining back to the States.

Manufacturers deciding whether or not to return to the U.S. have various factors to consider. For example, some countries do not give property owners the right to extract minerals beneath their land’s surface. In contrast, U.S. citizens can own oil, gas, rocks and minerals in the form of “fee simple ownership.” If manufacturers want to mine on U.S. land, they’ll need a mineral interest in their chosen property.

Government Action Regarding the Mining Industry

According to a White House press release, the Biden Administration suggests that the U.S. cannot rely solely on importing materials like rare earth minerals and carbon fiber from other countries or a single source.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is releasing $44 million in funding within its Mining Innovations for Negative Emissions Resources (NER). The funding would provide commercial-ready technologies to develop a sustainable, domestic supply of critical minerals such as:

  • Copper
  • Nickel
  • Lithium
  • Cobalt
  • Rare earth elements
  • Other crucial elements required for a clean-energy transition

The government is addressing some of the pain points in mining by updating regulations, building the National Defense Stockpile and expanding rare earth processing.

5 Minerals Needed for EV Battery Manufacturing

Here are the five key minerals needed to produce EV batteries:

  • Lithium
  • Cobalt
  • Nickel
  • Manganese
  • Graphite

Without these five materials, EV manufacturers would face many challenges, like price jumps in material costs, potential shortages and consumers left wondering whether or when they can actually buy an EV. Virtually all activities along the supply chain will falter due to the lack of lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and graphite.

The Future of Mining and EV Battery Manufacturing

In the past couple of years, the EV market has taken off. Sales will likely increase, meaning EV manufacturers must have affordable access to the materials needed to build EV batteries. For now, the public must wait to see how the mining industry impacts the EV market as it grows in the upcoming decades.

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