Tesla Plans to Swap Nickel-Based Batteries for Safer, Cheaper LFP Alternative
Tesla just announced big plans to use lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries that are not only cheaper but also pose less of a fire risk for its affordable electric vehicle (EV) and a semi-heavy electric truck. Although LFP batteries weigh more and have less capacity, resulting in a shorter range than nickel-based batteries, iron is less expensive and abundant. Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) has been on a push to secure supply of battery metals, including talks with China’s CATL to build an LFP factory in the US and a sales agreement with Piedmont Lithium for supply from its North Carolina deposit. The EV giant is also considering acquiring Sigma Lithium Corporation (TSXV:SGML) (NASDAQ:SGML) to solidify lithium supply. Meanwhile, lithium mining companies are looking to uncover resources following recent government investments to boost domestic battery metals supply. Usha Resources Ltd. (TSXV:USHA) (OTCQB:USHAF) is developing lithium projects in Nevada and Ontario, Piedmont and Sayona Mining Limited (OTCQB:SYAXF) invested $80 million to restart the North American Lithium (NAL) project in Quebec, and Lithium Americas (TSX:LAC) (NYSE:LAC) is developing the Thacker Pass project in Nevada.
Usha Resources Ltd. (TSXV:USHA) (OTCQB:USHAF) is a mineral exploration and acquisition company based in North America. Its primary goal is to identify drill-ready battery and precious metal prospects. The portfolio includes the company’s flagship Jackpot Lake lithium brine project in Nevada, the Lost Basin gold-copper project in Arizona, the White Willow lithium-tantalum property in Ontario and, most recently, the Nym property, also located in Ontario.
On April 12, Usha Resources provided an update on the ongoing drill program at its Jackpot Lake lithium brine property. Drill hole JP22-02, completed to a depth of 1,801 ft, has returned the highest grades of lithium encountered in recent drilling and historically to date at Jackpot Lake, with shallow soils within the upper 500 feet averaging 345 ppm lithium, almost twice the historical average of 175 ppm, and a high of 820 ppm, almost four times the historical average and twice the reported historical high of 550 ppm.
At Clayton Valley, home to the Silver Peak Lithium Brine Mine, the only producing lithium mine in the US, leaching of enriched lithium clays within a basin is one of the primary mechanisms by which lithium is believed to have been introduced into the brine, and so these grades are very favourable, especially in comparison to the reported average of 100 ppm for the Esmeralda Formation, one of the potential sources of the lithium enrichment in Clayton Valley.
Last week, Usha Resources added the Nym property to its portfolio, its second lithium project in Ontario with 119 identified potential LCT-pegmatites. The property is adjacent to the company’s recently purchased hard-rock lithium project, the White Willow Lithium-Tantalum Project, and expands the existing 712 claim block to 720 claims, adding 170 hectares to the 15,510 hectares already optioned.
The Nym property, like White Willow, is underexplored, with only three of 119 mapped pegmatites recorded. Previous drilling, however, has revealed pegmatite intersections up to 40 meters thick, and anomalous lithium has been identified at the surface, implying highly fractionated LCT-pegmatites containing spodumene and other LCT-minerals may also be present.
Both of these recent purchases complement Usha Resources‘ 100%-owned Jackpot Lake Lithium Brine Project in Nevada, where the company has just tripled its land position and is moving forward with its maiden drill program to yield a 43-101 resource.
Tesla and Lithium Miners Make Progress on Projects
In 2014, Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) committed to investing $3.5 billion in Nevada to create its first gigafactory, with the objective of generating 35 GWh of battery cells per year—enough to produce about 500,000 automobiles. The company has spent $6.2 billion in Nevada and developed a 5.4 million square foot Gigafactory since 2014, as part of its aim to speed the world’s transition to sustainable energy. The construction alone created 17,000 local construction jobs. Tesla plans to invest an additional $3.6 billion to expand Gigafactory Nevada, adding 3,000 new team members and two new factories: a 100 GWh 4680 cell factory (capable of producing enough batteries for 1.5 million light duty vehicles per year) and its first high-volume Semi factory.
On March 30, Piedmont Lithium and Sayona Mining Limited (OTCQB:SYAXF) reported that commercial spodumene concentrate production at their co-owned North American Lithium (NAL) project in Quebec had resumed successfully. NAL’s $80 million restart, which was completed on schedule and within budget, will be the only significant source of new spodumene output in North America for the next two years. Sayona intends to begin commercial shipping in the third quarter of 2023, with a capacity of 226,000 metric tonnes per year. NAL is one of three Sayona Quebec projects, a 75/25 partnership between Sayona and Piedmont. Sayona anticipates four shipments of up to 120,000 metric tonnes from NAL by the end of 2023, supporting key battery and electric vehicle manufacturers such as LG Chem and Tesla.
On April 10, Sigma Lithium (TSXV:SGML) (NASDAQ:SGML) announced that it has been awarded its environmental operating license to operate its Grota do Cirilo project, the largest hard-rock lithium project in the Americas, and to produce battery-grade sustainable lithium concentrate. First production is ontrack to start in April 2023. The company is also continuing with detailed engineering work on the Phase 2 & 3 expansion of the Greentech Plant, with plans to triple battery-grade sustainable lithium concentrate production from 270,000 tpa up to 766,000 tpa
Following receipt of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) notice to continue, Lithium Americas (TSX:LAC) (NYSE:LAC) announced the start of work at its 100%-owned Thacker Pass lithium project in Humboldt County, Nevada, on March 2. Thacker Pass plans to build 80,000 tonnes per year (tpa) of battery-grade lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) capacity in two phases, each of which will be 40,000 tpa. The first phase of production will start in the second half of 2026. The project is expected to provide 1,000 construction jobs as well as 500 operational positions.
Usha Resources has completed a non-brokered private offering of 9,230,769 units at $0.325 apiece, raising $3 million in gross proceeds.
Featured Image MegaPixl @ Tashka
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