EV makers eye bigger battery-metals role by inking mining deals
Electric-vehicle makers are pushing for an intermediary role in mining to secure supplies of key battery metals, according to the head of Wheaton Precious Metals Corp.
“We’ve had discussions on that and Tesla has definitely explored these options," Chief Executive Officer Randy Smallwood said Friday in a phone interview. “There is a real concern on the battery metal side in terms of supply."
Wheaton Precious Metals is one of the world’s largest metals streaming companies, whose business involves giving miners upfront financing in exchange for the right to buy produced metals in the future at a discount. Smallwood said he’s seeing increasing interest from electric-vehicle makers to get more involved in the industry and has even had talks with “potential partners" interested in starting their own streaming companies for battery metals including cobalt, nickel and lithium.
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Automakers have been signing supply deals with mining companies to secure metals used in batteries to meet surging demand amid a global push for a cleaner energy economy. Tesla Inc. struck a nickel-supply deal with BHP Group last month after CEO Elon Musk had expressed concern about supply due to challenges in sustainable sourcing.
These companies should “focus on the prominence of where their metals are coming from and making sure that the products they’re buying and investing into to supply their customers are sourced responsibly," Smallwood said.
Wheaton Precious Metals remains primarily focused on gold and silver production deals, though the Vancouver-based company has a cobalt streaming deal with Vale SA for some output from the Brazilian miner’s Voisey’s Bay mine in Canada. Cobalt has become harder to find with companies like Tesla and Apple Inc. trying to secure their own supplies by signing long-term production deals with miners.