Tesla is poised to become a technical adviser at the massive Goro mine in New Caledonia, as the electric car maker extends its efforts to acquire more lithium for its battery initiatives. Nickel is needed for the EV segment’s best batteries, like Tesla’s 4680 cells that were unveiled last year during Battery Day.
The Elon Musk-led company’s role in the Pacific island-based lithium mine was shared by a person reportedly familiar with the matter. By being a technical adviser to the mine, Tesla would be able to acquire long-term nickel supply on the project as part of an agreement with the New Caledonian government.
New Caledonia is among the largest lithium producers in the market, though the Goro mine has met challenges as of late. In December, protests from groups seeking independence from France for the island ended up delaying the mine’s sale by Brazilian miner Vale to Prony Resources, a consortium.
Representatives of the independence movement have reached an agreement with the New Caledonia government on Thursday, which should allow the mine’s sale to go through. In a statement to the Financial Times, Vale noted that the deal would “enable the operations to continue with a sustainable path for the future, preserving jobs and delivering economic value to the country.”
Tesla will not have an equity stake in the Goro mine, though its role as a technical adviser suggests that the company is well on its way to gaining greater control over its battery supply chain. Vale’s references to sustainable mining also meet Tesla’s criteria, considering the electric car maker’s stance on its nickel suppliers. These were related by Elon Musk, who noted that Tesla is promising giant nickel contracts to miners, provided that the material is gained through environmentally-conscious means.
Nickel is a critical component of Tesla’s 4680 tabless batteries, which are expected to be used for highly-anticipated vehicles like the Cybertruck and the Semi, both of which are large, heavy vehicles that likely require large battery packs to achieve their target range. So far, Tesla’s 4680 batteries are currently in pilot production at the Roadrunner facility in Fremont, CA, though plans suggest that the EV maker intends to build a dedicated cell production site in Gigafactory Berlin and Giga Texas as well.
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