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France joins the race to secure critical minerals with plans to raise $1.1 billion

January 11, 2022

The demand for the critical minerals that are needed to power the energy transition away from fossil fuels has sparked a race to secure supply by governments and industry.

On Jan. 10, France announced ambitious plans to raise €1 billion ($1.1 billion) to help secure enough supply of metals for industries like battery manufacturing.

The plan includes €500 million in public money, according to the environment and industry ministries. The government wants to reduce reliance on supplies of nickel, cobalt and lithium from outside the European Union, it said.

Procuring enough raw materials for EV batteries that also comply with ethical and ecological standards is becoming a focal point for carmakers, while France has also put pressure on manufacturers Renault SA and Stellantis NV to produce batteries at home. Bloomberg reported that both companies have taken steps to ensure long-term supply of some of the metals required for output.

In the United States, Tesla, Inc, announced that it has committed to buy 750 kt (165 million lbs) of nickel concentrate over six years from Talon’s proposed Tamarack Nickel mine in Minnesota (ME, Jan. 10). The deal has been estimated to be worth $1.5 billion and could help bring the mine online. The deal calls for Talon to make “commercially reasonable efforts” to open the mine by Jan. 1, 2026.

Tesla has been increasingly hammering out deals directly with producers of the metal, as well as other components of lithium-ion batteries.
Essentially, Tesla would claim more than half of the mine's production of nickel concentrate, which would be further refined before it could be used to make batteries.

Talon and its partner — global mining giant Rio Tinto — would create a rarity in the United States with the Tamarack project: a mine whose primary product is nickel, with copper as a secondary mineral.

This follows announcements in December from General Motors and MP Materials in which MP Materials’ Mountain Pass Mine it would supply sourced and manufactured rare earth materials, alloy and finished magnets for the electric motors in more than a dozen models using GM’s Ultium Platform, with a gradual production ramp that begins in 2023.

In France, the government is calling on the private sector to design projects that could be backed by an investment fund and aimed at bolstering supply chains of metals.

A report submitted to the government by Philippe Varin called for development of battery-metals processing at Dunkirk and for magnets in Lacq, in southwestern France.

It also called for spending on “strategic metals” supply that could include investment in mines.

 

 

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