More than 300 new mines needed to meet electric vehicle demand, says analyst

More than 300 new mines will be needed globally to meet growing demand for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, according to a new forecast from a mining analyst.

Canada can play a big role in meeting demand for electric vehicles, analyst says

More than 300 mines around the world will be needed to meeting growing demand for electric vehicles, according to a new forecast. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

More than 300 new mines will be needed globally to meet growing demand for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, according to a new forecast from a mining analyst.

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence estimates at least 384 new mines for graphite, lithium, nickel and cobalt will be required to meet electric vehicle demand by 2035. If battery materials can be recycled in large enough quantities, the firm says about 336 new mines would be needed.

Andrew Miller, Benchmark's chief operating officer, said he wasn't surprised when they arrived at the numbers.

"You know this has been something that has been building," he told CBC News.

"The targets, if you talk about EV demand, are increasing. We publish our forecast every quarter and that number has only ticked up."

Miller said the rest of the world is catching up to China with regard to demand for electric vehicles.

Traditional automakers like General Motors, Volkswagen and Hyundai have also started to offer more electric vehicles. 

Except for cobalt, Miller said there are enough minerals in the ground to meet growing demand for batteries, but mines can take years to develop. There are types of batteries called lithium iron phosphate batteries that no longer need cobalt, however.

"Canada has some massive potential," Miller said.

"It already has some of these mines that are under development today. A huge number of lithium prospects are being developed across Canada."

U.S tax credits a benefit for Canada

He said new tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S. will benefit Canada, because they apply to vehicles built in North America, that use minerals mined from the U.S. or its free trade partners. 

Miller said recycling batteries to recover their metals will become more important as demand grows and the mining industry struggles to keep up.

It will also be important for mining companies to expand their operations in a responsible fashion, he added.

"I think a huge opportunity for the new generation of miners and suppliers into the EV market is to make sure things are done sustainably," Miller said.

"To deploy new methods, new practices, to build out the clean energy credentials on site as well for the energy that's being used to really make sure that the the materials going into feeding this EV revolution are sustainable and are being extracted responsibly."

Steve LeVine, the editor of The Electric, a publication that focuses on electric vehicles and the lithium ion batteries that power them, previously told CBC News it's unlikely automakers will be able to meet their projections for electric vehicles as demand continues to rise.

He said current mines can't meet future demand.

"At the end of the decade, the desire is to make between 25 million and 40 million EVs, if you count the Chinese [industry] and Tesla," LeVine said.

"There's enough nickel to make 13 million."

Over the last little while, we've heard more and more about how Northern Ontario will become a crucial part of the automotive industry. But as governments begin to set goals for phasing out gas engines, and automakers pivot to producing EVs, how many more mines will be needed across the world? A new report from mining analytics firm Benchmark Mineral Intelligence puts that number at more than 384 to meet the demand for graphite, lithium, nickel, and cobalt in 2035. After factoring in the recycling of material, the number of new mines needed is still around 336. Up North host, Jonathan Pinto spoke with Andy Miller, chief operating officer of Benchmark.

With files from Jonathan Pinto


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