General Motors plans to invest $650 million in Canada-based lithium mining specialist Lithium Americas, as the automaker looks to source the material for its expanding electric vehicle production plans.
Under the deal, GM and Lithium Americas would jointly invest to develop the Thacker Pass mine in Nevada, which the two companies called the largest known lithium source in the U.S. and third-largest in the world, according to a Tuesday press release.
Lithium from the mine will be used to produce GM’s Ultium battery cells, which are used in several of the company’s EV lines, including its Hummer EV Pickup, Chevrolet Equinox EV, Silverado EV and others.
“Direct sourcing critical EV raw materials and components from suppliers in North America and free-trade-agreement countries helps make our supply chain more secure, helps us manage cell costs, and creates jobs,” Mary Barra, GM chair and CEO, said in a statement.
The automaker’s plans come as companies are straining to secure lithium, which has seen price spikes amid soaring demand.
The company has already secured enough battery materials needed to make more than 1 million EVs annually in North America through 2025, according to Barra. Production at the Thacker Pass mine is expected to begin in the second half of 2026 and will feed into battery production thereafter.
GM has announced four battery plants so far to support production. A facility in Ohio is currently making Ultium battery cells as part of a joint venture. Additional sites in Tennessee and Michigan are scheduled to open in 2023 and 2024, respectively.
GM’s announced investment would make it the largest investor in Lithium Americas. The investment is split between two “tranches,” the first of which will be released pending a decision at a U.S. District court regarding the future of the Thacker Pass mine, which is located on federally owned land.
A group of Native American tribes holding the site to be sacred filed suit in 2021 to block development of the mine, saying that the government did not consult them prior to greenlighting private development of the area. The tribes join environmental groups and other plaintiffs in trying to block development.
GM will make the second tranche investment after Lithium Americas separates its U.S. and Argentina businesses, expected in late 2023. As another condition of the investment deal, Lithium Americas must secure sufficient capital on its end to fund development costs to support Thacker Pass.