The United States, and therefore the world, is shifting toward electric vehicle technology. In order to build the number of vehicles that the government is demanding (50% of new vehicles by 2030), there will need to be an extreme uptick in lithium mining to support battery production. Now, a North American company says that its site in Canada will be able to meet the strenuous demands.
Snow Lake Lithium was formed in 2018 as a part of the Australian exploration company Nova Minerals Ltd, itself founded in 2016. So far, the company has only explored 1% of its 55,000-acre site in the province of Manitoba, but according to the results of an initial drilling test, it looks to be promising.
Snow Lake Lithium says up to 500,000 EVs in North America will be able to be powered by the lithium mined at this new site by 2025, with that number increasing to a whopping 5 million EVs in the decade following. The actual amount of the metal is 160,000 tons of 6% lithium spodumene per year. Snow Lake Lithium claims to be a “fully renewable lithium resource that will deliver a completely traceable, zero harm product to the electric vehicle and battery market.” The company will conduct its Manitoba mining operations using exclusively electric vehicles and equipment on site.
However, one needs only look at images of the pristine wilderness of northern Manitoba – Snow Lake included – to ponder if digging up all of this nature in the name of saving it is a noble pursuit. NIMBYs and PIMBYs, feel free to chime in the comment section below.
Actual drilling won’t take place until the company completes 18-24 months of environmental work such as permitting, and it only just started in 2022. In addition to the resource-rich site, the location is also preferable for easy transportation by rail to the US, easing the dependence on materials from China.
Although the site seems promising for the immediate future of electric vehicles, the CEO of another mining company says it still won’t be enough to meet current demand.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance, Keith Phillips, CEO of Piedmont Lithium said “we’ll [eventually] have enough, but not by that time,” adding “There’s going to be a real crunch to get the material. We don’t have enough in the world to turn that much [lithium] production in the world by 2035.”
Additional problems include the rate at which lithium projects get permitted, which can be between two and eight years in North America compared to under a year in Australia. However, companies will continue to chase the metal in order to cash in on the tax credits offered by the government as a result of the invocation of the Defense Production Act to increase material production for electric vehicles.
As of yet, Snow Lake Lithium has not announced a partnership with any major OEM to supply rare earth metals, but it is searching for one or more. The timelines that companies such as Snow Lake and Piedmont have to fight will be a major determining factor toward the government’s goals of mass electric vehicle adoption.
Suppose it’s marginally better than depending on a China-dominated rare earth supply chain, though.