While the idea of Tesla entering the mining business is quite exciting, the company would actually prefer it if it did not have to enter the industry. This was mentioned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk during his recent interview with a Tesla enthusiast.
While discussing Tesla’s projects in his interview on the Getting Stoned podcast, Elon Musk was asked if the electric vehicle maker’s mining aspirations are on the back burner. Quite surprisingly, Musk explained that Tesla actually doesn’t want to go into the mining segment, partly because of its limitations.
“Well, we don’t want to go into the mining industry or the sort of refining industry because the limitation, I think, is actually more. For example, with lithium, it’s more lithium refinement than it is the actual mining. So you better take the ore that contains lithium, and you’ve got to refine it and get it to battery-grade lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate. And it has to be extremely pure. Otherwise, you could have a breakdown in the cell.
“You can’t have impurities in the cell because it would cause the cell to fail. So the challenge with a lot of the ingredients into lithium-ion batteries is the processing. It’s not the fundamental rarity of lithium. Lithium is very common. It’s one of the most common elements on earth. But you’ve got to turn it into battery-grade lithium and that’s, that’s where the chokepoint is,” Musk said.
Musk also explained that the number of smart, hard-working people that Tesla could push to do important projects is limited. So for Tesla, it would be better to take on tasks that really make a difference in the company’s efforts to push the needle on the sustainability transition.
“So I hope we do not need to get into the mining business. There’s a limited number of smart, hard, working people that we can say, ‘work on this problem or work on that problem.’ So (if) we have people work on this problem, they can’t work on that problem. There’s not like some magical source of super talented people. We’re not sitting around with our resources saying ‘I wonder what more we can take on?’ We sort of… focus on things that really make a difference,” Musk said.
Interestingly enough, Musk mentioned at the Financial Times Future of the Car 2022 Conference back in May that it’s “not out of the question” for Tesla to buy a mining company if producing its own supply of electric cars would speed up the worldwide adoption of clean energy technologies. Back then, however, Musk gave the impression that Tesla would only enter the mining industry if it really had to.
“It’s not out of the question. We will address whatever limitations are on accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy. It’s not that we wish to buy mining companies, but if that’s the only way to accelerate the transition, then we will do that,” Musk said. then.
While Musk’s recent comments may be interpreted as him walking back on previous statements, the CEO did specify back in May that Tesla is open to acquiring an existing mining company. That scenario is a bit different than Tesla proactively entering the mining industry on its own even if alternatives are available.
Listen to Elon Musk’s recent comments on mining below.
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