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More and more new energy car companies are trying to directly connect with the most upstream lithium miners.

Recently, according to Bloomberg News, Tesla is considering acquiring a Canadian lithium mine listed company, Sigma Lithium Industry.

Grotta-Duxiliro spodumene project

According to the plan, the Grotta-Duxiliro spodumene project will be put into trial operation in December 2022, and the target is to start shipping before the end of April 2023. The first phase of the project is expected to produce 270,000 tons of high-purity battery-grade lithium concentrate every year, which is equivalent to about 36,700 tons of lithium carbonate equivalent every year.

In addition, based on the latest research results of mineral reserves, Sigma Lithium said that the project has the potential to produce 768,000 tons of lithium concentrate in the second to eighth years of operation.

Production line of Grotta-Duxiliro spodumene project

It is worth noting that this acquisition plan is not the first time Tesla has intentionally set foot in lithium mines. As early as 2019, it was reported that Tesla would reach an agreement with Sigma Lithium Industry. Although there was little relevant news since then, Tesla has always had expectations for the acquisition of Sigma Lithium Industry.

At the beginning of 2022, Musk once claimed to buy the finnis lithium mine owned by Australian mining company Core Lithium, but the deal fell through in the second half of last year. Not only that, Musk also said that he would buy the ownership of lithium mines in Nevada and apply for a patent for a method to extract lithium, but these plans have not yet been realized.

Why buy lithium ore directly? The main reason is to reduce the cost of electric vehicles-the price of lithium is still relatively high, and Tesla has its own battery production needs. According to the analysis of SNE research, the price of battery accounts for 30%-40% of the price of electric vehicle, while the cost of raw materials accounts for 77% of the total cost of battery. According to the website of automatic evolution, in the manufacture of electric vehicles, an average car needs up to 8 kilograms of lithium to make batteries.

In April 2022, Musk wrote on Twitter: "The price of lithium has reached a crazy level! Unless we improve the cost, Tesla may have to directly enter the field of mining and refining on a large scale. Lithium is almost everywhere, but the refining of lithium ore is very slow. "

Although the acquisition of lithium ore has not been able to land, Tesla has built a lithium smelter outside Corpus Christi, Texas. After the factory is put into operation, it can process lithium concentrate from suppliers into lithium salts such as lithium hydroxide, thus further producing battery cathode materials and entering the battery assembly line. With an investment of about 375 million US dollars, the factory is expected to be put into operation in the fourth quarter of 2024.

The site of the lithium salt processing plant in Tesla State, which quietly erected the signboard.

It can be seen that, with Tesla as the representative, more and more new energy vehicle companies are bypassing battery manufacturers and directly connecting with upstream raw material suppliers to ensure resource supply and control the cost of core raw materials in order to improve profitability.

On January 31st this year, General Motors announced that it would invest 650 million US dollars to buy shares in American Lithium Company, a Canadian listed company, and the two sides jointly invested in the development of Thacker Pass mine in Nevada, USA. This mine is the largest known lithium mine in the United States and the third largest lithium mine in the world, with proven reserves of 133.944 million tons, equivalent to 2.358 million tons of lithium carbonate. This is also the biggest investment of automobile manufacturers in the production of battery raw materials so far.

Among the domestic new energy vehicle companies, BYD is at the forefront of the prospecting team. As early as six years ago, it established Qinghai Salt Lake BYD Resources Development Co., Ltd. with Salt Lake Co., Ltd.. After experiencing bottlenecks such as technical route selection, BYD Salt Lake Pilot Base produced qualified lithium carbonate products in November last year. At present, the pilot line scale is 600 tons/year. BYD can be seen not only in Qinghai, Zabuye Salt Lake in Tibet, Yichun in Jiangxi, Chile in South America and even Africa.

Domestic car companies following BYD's search for lithium mines include GAC and Weilai. In August last year, GAC Ai 'an signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Ganfeng Lithium Industry to lay out upstream lithium resources and recycle used batteries. In November, Guangzhou Automobile Group announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Guangzhou Automobile Parts, will jointly establish a joint venture company with Shixi Coal Industry and Zunyi Energy to carry out related mineral geological exploration and investment management of mineral resources.

In September last year, Blue Northstar Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Weilai Automobile, reached a strategic financing deal with Australian mineral exploration and development company Greenwing Resources Ltd, and planned to invest more than 600 million yuan in Greenwing to promote the exploration plan of its lithium project in San Jorge Salt Lake in Catamarca, Argentina. At the same time, Weilai became the priority customer of the project.

In the eyes of the industry, Tesla, BYD and other new energy vehicle companies are actively deploying upstream lithium mine resources, which is aimed at the continuous exploration of the battery supply chain control link, and the upstream resource enterprises are also trying to build a sustainable new cooperative relationship directly with the OEM.

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