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Electric Vehicles: a mining revolution

17 May 2017 - by Cara McFadyen

The need for batteries is not a new thing, we've been using batteries in some shape or form now for over 250 years, what has changed is the way we use them.

2016 saw the beginning of the Electric Vehicle (EV) revolution. As more than a million EV’s now fill our streets the focus for the mining industry is sourcing the materials to build EV's.

The average petrol/ diesel powered car is built containing approximately 20 kilos of copper; the average electric car uses 80 kilos.

If we look forward to the next 20 years the demand for battery components such as lithium, copper, nickel and cobalt will increase hugely to keep up with the tech revolution.

Australia is the worlds top lithium producer, producing 14,300 MT in 2016.e world in lithium production, producing 14,300 MT in 2016.

Around 97% of the world’s cobalt is a by-product of nickel or copper, and with the price of those base metals at a 6-year low cobalt deposits are uneconomical to say the least.

EV giant, Tesla, are quoted as saying that they alone ‘will require today’s entire worldwide production of lithium ion batteries’ with the cobalt component being sourced entirely in North America. The US and Canada combined only produce around 4% of the worlds cobalt which is clearly not enough for Tesla; the deficit may result in a serious boost for nickel.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the worlds largest producer of cobalt, accounting for approximately 60% of global production.

Not only the world’s largest consumer of copper, but also the world’s largest EV market, China is the one to watch for the mining sector to gauge the potential future balance of copper supply and demand especially following the drop in imports from December last year. "This slowdown in copper imports signals waning demand in the face of increasing rates and slower manufacturing," Bart Melek, global head of commodity strategy at TD Securities

The Andean Copper belt, in Peru, produces 48% of the worlds copper.

The future looks bright, an upturn in the mining cycle is visible as exploration begins to increase again.