Tesla eyes over $1 billion worth of Australian critical minerals a year

Big battery at the Hornsdale Wind Farm, Mid-North South Australia. (Image courtesy of David Clarke | Flickr.)

Electric cars giant Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) said it expects to soon begin buying more than $1 billion a year of Australian lithium, nickel and other critical minerals for its batteries and engines.

Chairman Robyn Denholm said the country has taken important steps towards cleaning its image of polluting commodities exporter and it is poised to become a globally significant supplier of climate change solutions.

“Australia has the minerals to power the renewable energy age throughout the world in the coming years,” Denholm, an Australian, said in a speech during a Minerals Council of Australia event.

“We expect our spend on Australian minerals to increase to more than $1 billion per annum for the next few years,” she said.

Denholm’s remarks come as Australia’s minerals sector released its first progress report on climate action, which shows the industry has cut emissions and is on track to reach a 30% annual reduction.

Tesla eyes over $1 billion of Australian minerals a year
Source: MCA Climate Action Report Progress 2021.

The document highlights 12 case studies on how the industry is taking practical climate action, including the rollout of renewables, carbon capture and storage development and investment in autonomous vehicles from major players such as BHP, Rio Tinto, Newcrest, Newmont and Anglo American.

Tesla already sources three quarters of the lithium it uses from Australia and over a third of its nickel, Denham said, without specifying a dollar figure.

$310bn market by 2030

Tesla chairman also noted that the country has the advantage of having resources in all three critical battery metals as well as other components at the heart of the clean energy transition.

“To put it a simpler way: electric vehicles account for less than 1% of vehicles globally at the moment. To reach net zero emissions, that needs to be much closer to 100% within 30 years. So that’s at least a 100-fold increase ahead, just for vehicles,” she said.

Denholm said that shift would, by 2030, generate a global lithium-ion battery market of A$400 billion ($310bn).

“That’s eight times the revenue generated by Australia’s coal exports in 2020,” she said.

Government figures forecast exports of spodumene to hit A$1 billion ($773m) this year while its nickel exports are expected to be valued at A$4 billion ($3bn).

(With files from Reuters)

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