Nickel Mining Growing Due to Lithium Ion Batteries
According to a recent article, the “dramatic rise of electric vehicles (EV) is creating a surge in business for companies mining battery minerals, especially for companies operating in Indonesia, one of the world’s top producers of battery minerals.”
How a reliable, diversified supply of lithium is a top priority for battery suppliers and vehicle manufacturers, who are expected to demand an estimated 100,000 tons of lithium carbonate by 2021.
For a large number of applications, from automobiles to portable electronics, lithium-ion battery assembles have become the energy storage solution of choice. Lithium ion (Li-ion) battery cells are lightweight compared to other battery technology, which, combined with their relatively high energy density, makes them appropriate and potentially cost-effective for transport applications, especially Electric Vehicles (EVs).
However, nickel, another essential mineral to produce batteries, now seems to be the material of high interest right now. The Nickel Institute website explains that “Li-ion batteries were incorporated into the next generation of electric cars, as their superior power density became critical for moving vehicles over long distances. Although electric vehicles (EVs) currently account for a relatively small proportion of global automobile stock, their market share is increasing and is forecast to continue to grow rapidly in the coming years. Some predictions suggest they will make up more than 10% of vehicles by 2025, most of which will be powered by nickel-containing Li-ion batteries. Using nickel in car batteries offers greater energy density and storage at lower cost, delivering a longer range for vehicles, currently one of the restraints to EV uptake.”
This fondness for nickel is especially true in Indonesia. A Bloomberg article noted:
“Indonesia aims to become a global hub in the EV industry supply chain. Not only does the country have rich sources of nickel, it also has direct nautical trade routes to China and Japan. These powerful neighboring countries represent major markets for the materials Indonesia is producing, thanks to Japan’s high-tech consumer economy and China’s powerful battery industry.
Vehicle manufacturers in both countries are focused on becoming leaders in EV, and for that they’ll need battery-grade nickel. …
To support its plan to become a world-leading player in the EV supply chain, Indonesia has stopped export of unprocessed nickel ore. The government has also recently approved environmental impact studies for the completion of several factories designed to produce battery-grade nickel chemicals.
With the Indonesian government providing support for nickel production, and factories being established to process the chemicals, Indonesia won’t just be a source of nickel-bearing ore — it will become a major market for the base metal.”
One type of technology that may help in the quest for more nickel could lie with handheld XRF analyzers. Miners seek solutions for rapid geochemical analysis that will enable them to increase discovery success rates, identify drill targets quickly, make on-site decisions about whether to stop or continue drilling, and decide where to focus on the grid. Miners must also get an accurate report of their mining and mineral operations to the capital markets as fast as possible.
These XRF instruments provide rapid, on-site qualitative screening directly in-situ or lab-quality quantitative analysis on prepared samples, bypassing the costly and time-consuming process of sending samples to off-site laboratories and waiting days, or even months, for critical data. By being able to identify the metal quickly, it will be a help to many industries, including mining, automotive, and green technologies.
So, it seems the outlook for that silvery-white metal is good; just don’t take any wooden nickels.
By Sharon Hao – Thermo Fisher Scientific