- Shortages of minerals essential to Tesla's batteries could affect production levels in the long term, Tesla global supply manager of battery metals Sarah Maryssael said in a closed-door presentation Thursday, reported Reuters. Tesla has since confirmed the report.
- Underinvestment in the global mining industry threatens supplies of copper, nickel, lithium and other minerals used to produce Tesla batteries and cars, Maryssael said. She reportedly called for further investment by mining companies to meet the growing demand.
- Australia and the U.S. have "huge potential" to meet this need, Maryssael told the Benchmark Minerals Intelligence conference.
Demand for copper is on the rise now that common smart devices, like responsive thermostats and voice-activated home devices, require the mineral. Plus, Tesla needs roughly double the amount of copper required in one combustion engine for each of its electric cars.
Minerals have historically been a sourcing challenge for the carmaker since certain minerals have a dark history connected to violent conflicts or child labor. Those procuring minerals can't simply buy from any mining venture. In fact, the company has been working to remove cobalt form its batteries for just this reason, but reducing cobalt means increasing the use of other minerals.
The U.S. produces very little of the minerals now deemed essential to these high-tech products, causing concerns that go beyond individual companies' supply chains. China has invested heavily in its mining industry and now produces eight times more lithium than the U.S. per year, according to Bloomberg. That dynamic has turned the "minerals gap" into one of national economic security in the eyes of the U.S. government, which would rather see U.S. manufacturers rely on domestic, or at least friendlier, suppliers.
U.S. government officials and industry stakeholders, including Tesla, met Thursday to discuss ways to boost stockpiles and ease the permit process for new domestic mining ventures.