Battery technology used in electric vehicles is quickly evolving, and the direction it goes will have implications for the mining sector. At the recent Precious Metals Summit Zurich + Energy Transition Day, held Nov. 13-15, an expert panel discussed what the future may hold for this key demand driver for metals.
Among the chief insights were the extreme volatility of the lithium market, which Andy Leyland, Managing Director, Supply Chain Insights, sees continuing. That’s especially the case because there are no above ground lithium stocks and substitution isn’t possible without a big hit to performance, he noted.
Supply is quickly climbing from about 22 lithium mines operating six years ago to 60 now, and roughly 200 expected by the end of the decade.
“The difference between a very high price and a very low price is 199 versus 201 operations,” he said. “We saw that a few years ago. When the market went to 32 operations, but it only needed 31, two of them went bust. Then nobody invested for a few years and the price shot up. So it’s gonna be a very volatile market.”
Mark Selby, CEO of Canada Nickel (TSXV: CNC), which is advancing its Crawford nickel project in Ontario, said there’s room for multiple battery chemistries in the market.
“I think that’s where investors stumble — they have to say, oh, there’s one winner and everything else by definition is then a loser,” he said.
However, Selby said it’s more likely that we’ll have a differentiated market with options ranging from entry-level to premium based on performance.
Selby also said that even though technology is evolving, he’s not worried about nickel substitution.
“Nickel is the metal that has the highest energy density… People are always trying to find ways to jam more nickel into the battery.”
Watch the entire conversation, moderated by Northern Miner Group President Anthony Vaccaro: