Tesla Battery Day. Photo: Tesla
Tesla is considering building a lithium refinery in Texas or Louisiana. Earlier, Elon Musk hinted that Tesla could start mining lithium as the price of the metal continues to rise. This will also be in line with the plan presented at Battery Day in 2020.
Tesla is considering building a lithium refinery on the Gulf Coast of Texas, several domestic and foreign media publications have reported. The manufacturer told officials it is considering building a “battery-grade lithium hydroxide refining facility” in Nueces County, which it has pitched as “the first of its kind in North America,” according to a newly public application for tax breaks filed with the Texas Comptroller's Office.
Tesla spoke a little about the project, writing that if built, the facility would process “raw ore material into a usable state for battery production.” The resulting lithium hydroxide it creates would be “packaged and shipped by truck and rail to various Tesla battery manufacturing sites supporting the necessary supply chain for large-scale and electric vehicle batteries.”
Tesla said the process it will use to mine lithium is “innovative and designed to consume less hazardous reagents and create usable by-products compared to the conventional process.” This may be the process described at Battery Day, which was patented by Tesla.
The patent, “Selective extraction of lithium from clay minerals,” states that extracting lithium from ore using sodium chloride is an environmentally friendlier way to obtain the metal, compared to currently used techniques such as acid leaching. It also allows for higher recoveries. In essence, this method allows extracting lithium from clay minerals and compositions by mixing a cation source with the clay mineral, performing a high-energy mill of the clay mineral, and performing a liquid leach to obtain a lithium-rich leach solution.
The construction of the facility could start as early as Q4 2022, but commercial production will only start in Q4 2024. Tesla told the government that the facility could be located “anywhere with access to the Gulf Coast shipping channel,” but that the company is evaluating a competing site in Louisiana.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly urged miners to expand the production of lithium, which is a key metal for the production of lithium-ion batteries and the production of electric vehicles. “I’d like to once again urge entrepreneurs to enter the lithium refining business. The mining is relatively easy, the refining is much harder,” he said on Tesla’s Q2 2022 earnings call in July. “You can't lose, it's a license to print money.”
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