Tesla nickel partner Talon Metals announced on Wednesday it has purchased three additional drill rigs to accelerate battery mineral exploration at its Tamarack nickel-copper-cobalt project mine in Central Minnesota.
Talon said the new drills will be deployed to expand the company’s “exploration of the Tamarack Intrusive Complex for additional high-grade nickel, copper, and cobalt.”
“The need to secure domestic sources of battery minerals like nickel has grown more urgent. Climate change is accelerating, and the United States is dependent on foreign countries for the key ingredients required for clean power and battery storage,” CEO of Talon Metals Henri van Rooyen said. “President Biden, with bipartisan support in Congress, has recently elevated domestic sourcing of battery materials like nickel to a national priority. Our investment in new equipment, people, and technology to explore for battery minerals in Minnesota addresses this national priority and purpose.”
The new rigs will be used to explore additional zones outside of the Tamarack mine’s main resource area. The main resource area is where numerous intercepts of high-grade materials, such as nickel-copper mineralization, have already been discovered, the company said. The mineralization offers up to 9.95 percent nickel.
Talon signed a nickel supply deal with Tesla in January. The exact terms of the deal were unknown, but Tesla did secure 75,000 tonnes of nickel over six years from Talon, who would also provide cobalt and iron ore to the electric automaker for its EV batteries. Additionally, the agreement may be extended “for up to 12 months following which Tesla has a right to terminate the agreement and Talon may elect to sell to other parties.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk made a call for nickel mining to increase during an Earnings Call in July 2020. “Well, I’d just like to reemphasize, any mining companies out there, please mine more nickel, OK?” Musk asked. “Wherever you are in the world, please mine more nickel, and don’t wait for nickel to go back to some long–some high point that you experienced some five years ago or whatever. Go for efficiency, as environmentally friendly, nickel mining at high volume. Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way. So hopefully, this message goes out to all mining companies.”
Tesla also signed an agreement with BHP, an Australian nickel company, in July 2021.
Nickel experts are calling for more domestic production of the material as prices spiked due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Trent Mell, a nickel mining expert, told Teslarati in an interview last month that automotive industry leaders, like Musk and Ford CEO Jim Farley, needed to push for more North American production of EV battery materials. Mell’s wishes were answered, as President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to decrease foreign dependence on materials.
“I am encouraged by this latest measure and what it could mean for the Idaho Cobalt Belt,” Mell said to Teslarati in an emailed statement. “We cannot achieve a low carbon future without new nickel, cobalt, and lithium mines. Building mines in America is important for our national security and industrial interests, and we can realize our clean energy ambitions in a safer, cleaner, and more responsible manner.”
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