Major moves in Michigan
As mentioned in the January Crucible, lithium never sleeps. And neither does the rampant new trend of onshoring, and “friend-shoring”, heralded in particular by North America (read Tom Butcher’s letter this month).
Come February, US automaker Ford became the first in the industry to commit to making both nickel cobalt manganese
(NCM) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries in the US. The company announced an investment of $3.5 billion in building build an LFP battery plant in Marshall, Michigan— part of what it calls its “$50+ global push to lead the EV revolution”. Ford, which already uses NMC batteries, is introducing a new option LFP batteries into its vehicle starting with Mustang Mach-E, followed by F-150 Lightning in 2024.
The plant, called BlueOval Battery Park Michigan will employ 2,500 people initially with production of LFP batteries to start in 2026. This will initially add approximately 35 GWh per year of new battery capacity for Ford in the US – capable of powering approximately 400,000 future Ford EVs.
Ford has signed an agreement on battery technology with leading battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL) , an expert in LFP which has operated 13 battery plants in Europe and Asia. LFP technology which are fast taking over from Li-ion because, not least, of superior fire safe-ty). This new partnership adds to Ford’s existing battery collaborations with including with South Korea’s battery makers SK On and LG Energy Solution (LGES, a subsidiary of LG Chem).
LG Chem invests in lithium
Investments in onshoring supply chain integration are running upstream, from automakers investing in battery plants, to battery makers investing in raw materials for their battery chemicals. Welcome to the US spodumene belt of North Carolina (literally welcome, if you come to our conference!).
This month, LG Chem agreed to buy $75m worth of shares in NC -based Piedmont Lithium and committed to the offtake of 200,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate, the hard-rock raw material for lithium chemicals.
Piedmont’s projects include Carolina Lithium and Tennessee Lithium in the US and partnerships in Quebec, Canada with Sayon a Mining and in Ghana with Atlantic Lithium.
Piedmont will supply LG Chem with 50,000 t/yr of spodumene concentrate for four years with shipments starting in Q3 2023. with formula pricing to market prices at the time of each shipment. It has also granted LG Chem priority negotiation rights for 10,000t/yr of lithium hydroxide produced by Piedmont at either of its proposed facilities in Tennessee or North Carolina.
Taniobis breaks ground on Thai Ta powders plant
Investment between friendly countries in raw materials for green tech doesn’t stop at batteries. This month TANIOBIS GmbH, a German subsidiary of JX Nippon Mining & Metals Corporation broke ground on a €28m ($29m) plant in Map Ta Phut in Thailand, to expand production capacity for tantalum powder.
Eyes on the European Union
We will be keeping our eyes on the European Union in the coming month, as mid-March should bring the announcement of details of the EU’s rapidly put together Critical Minerals Act—and the new Net Zero Industry Act to go with it.
The Net Zero Industry Act—proposed as the EU’s answer to the US Inflation Reduction Act aims to put into practice Europe’s proposed Green Deal Industrial Plan.
The latter rests on four pillars: 1) a predictable and simplified regulatory environment; 2) faster access to sufficient funding; ) skills; and 4) open trade for resilient supply chains. The Net Zero Industry Act is designed to address point one.
So is Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation covering, among things, non-ferrous metals and open to public consultations — see the consultations page on how to contribute. The MMTA is happy to support you!