Tesla’s lithium mining plans in Nevada generate their first skeptics


It appears that the first hurdles for Tesla’s plans to produce its own lithium are starting to emerge, with critics noting that the electric carmaker’s initiatives could very well be mired in several challenges. These include a potentially exhausting licensing process, as well as pervasive questions about the lithium production technologies planned by the company.At Tesla’s Battery Day event, CEO Elon Musk told shareholders the company has acquired rights to 10,000 acres in Nevada where lithium could be produced. Musk noted that Tesla would produce lithium from clay deposits using a process developed in-house. If successful, Tesla would be the first company in the market to commercially produce the white metal from clay.

Lithium is typically produced from brine, which is typically found in South America. The material is also produced from hard rock spodumene, which is commonly found in Australia.

Tesla’s plans for lithium production are quite ambitious. As stated in a Reuters report, Tesla plans to mix clay with table salt and water, causing a reaction where the salt is leached with lithium ready to be mined. The clay remaining from the process would be returned to the earth to mitigate environmental damage. “It’s a very sustainable way to get lithium,” Musk said.

Insofar as Tesla’s plans are ambitious, however, the plan quickly drew backlash from critics, some of whom argued that the electric car maker provided far too few details about its production initiatives. lithium. Among those critics is Chris Berry, an independent lithium industry consultant, who noted that Tesla’s proposed plan and process is questionable.

“This Tesla plan raises many more questions than it answers. Are we just supposed to take Elon Musk’s word to say that the cost will be lower than existing lithium projects? … If producing lithium in commercial quantities from battery grade clay was possible, why not isn’t it already done? said the consultant.

Pedro Palandrani, of the Global X Lithium & Battery Technology ETF, was more optimistic about Tesla’s plans, although he warned that mining the lithium could be a very tedious process for the electric car maker. This is all the more remarkable given that any lithium mining operation requires an extensive application process, whose permit approvals could take a very long time. Palandrani, for his part, said he would not be surprised if it took Tesla several years before it could begin lithium operations in Nevada.

“The exploitation of lithium is very difficult. If Tesla really wants to fly solo, we’re talking about four to five years to really see any kind of lithium production, ”Palandrani noted.


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