GM secures Vale Canada nickel for EVs
Metal Tech News - November 18, 2022
Last updated 11/21/2022 at 12:15pm
Enters deal for battery-grade nickel sulfate to be produced in Canada's new Battery Valley.
In a deal that helps General Motors meet its electric vehicle ambitions and further solidifies Canada as the go-to North American source for low-carbon battery materials, the American automaker has cut a deal for the long-term supply of battery-grade nickel sulfate from a plant Vale Canada Ltd. is building in Quebec's emerging Battery Valley.
"This new agreement with Vale reinforces GM's leadership in building a secure and sustainable North America EV supply chain and will provide GM with significant supply of high-grade nickel sulfate from a low-carbon source," said Doug Parks, executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain at GM.
Vale already produces low-carbon nickel at its mines and refineries across eastern and central Canada. Now, the mining company is building a facility in Becancour – an area of southeastern Quebec that has been dubbed Battery Valley due to its emergence as a hub for battery materials production – that will produce nickel sulfate needed for the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries.
"The proposed nickel sulfate project would utilize high purity, low-carbon nickel from our Canadian refineries and is a natural extension for the business, offering diversified sales and a fast entry and anchor point into the North American electric vehicle market," said Deshnee Naidoo, the executive vice president of base metals at Vale.
Under the long-term supply agreement between Vale and GM, the Brazil-based mining company will supply the Detroit automaker with 25,000 metric tons of nickel per year in the upgraded form needed for lithium battery cathodes. This is enough nickel sulfate for the Ultium batteries for roughly 350,000 Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, and Hummer EVs per year.
All-Canada supply chain
As the second largest nickel mining company in the world, Vale is already well positioned to be a substantial supplier of this metal, which has seen a surge in demand due to its use in lithium-ion batteries.
Vale's Voisey's Bay mine and Long Harbour refinery in Newfoundland and Labrador, Sudbury operations in Ontario, and Thompson mine in Manitoba produce some of the lowest-carbon nickel in the world.
An abundance of hydropower being fed into Canada's power grids plays a major role in lowering the carbon footprint of Vale's mines and refineries in this mineral-rich country.
The lowered carbon dioxide emissions from these operations make the nickel Vale is producing in Canada attractive to EV manufacturers.
Earlier this year, Vale confirmed that Tesla had entered into a long-term contract to buy low-carbon nickel from the Brazilian miner's mines and refineries in Canada.
The nickel Vale is producing in Canada is even more attractive for automakers with the plant it is building in Quebec, which will be the first in North America to produce the nickel sulfate needed for lithium-ion batteries.
"The proposed nickel sulfate project would utilize high purity, low-carbon nickel from our Canadian refineries and is a natural extension for the business, offering diversified sales and a fast entry and anchor point into the North American electric vehicle market," said Naidoo.
Vale's Becancour nickel sulfate plant, however, is not expected to be ready for commercial production until 2026. This happens to be good timing for GM, which has already secured enough battery materials to achieve its initial target of producing 1 million EVs per year in North America by 2025.
Battery Valley nickel
The locale of the Vale nickel sulfate plant also happens to be a good fit for GM, which is establishing a major link in its EV materials supply chain in Becancour.
In March, the automaker announced that it is working with POSCO Chemical to develop a roughly $400 million cathode active materials plant in this area of Quebec that is emerging as Canada's Battery Valley.
"With this new processing facility in Bécancour, GM will help lead the EV battery supply chain while also launching Canada's first full EV manufacturing plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, later this year," GM Canada President and Managing Director Scott Bell said in March.
This plant will mix nickel sulfate with lithium, manganese, cobalt, and aluminum products for the cathodes in GM's Ultium batteries.
Vale's move into Battery Valley and deal with GM further solidifies Quebec as a major battery materials hub.
"The signing of this agreement confirms that the biggest players in the industry want to invest here and enter our supply chain," said Quebec Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy Pierre Fitzgibbon.
And given Canada's abundance of critical minerals and hydropower, America's northern neighbor is becoming an increasingly important supplier of low-carbon materials for EVs.
"It's become even more clear that Canada can be the supplier of choice for the electric cars of the future," said Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne. "By leveraging Canadian critical minerals, we will see more jobs for Canadians, a growing economy and a greener and cleaner future for everyone."