Nickel from Labrador in Tesla cars

The exact value of the agreement is not known, but it is in the billions of dollars.

About 5% of nickel production in Canada is used to build electric cars. With this agreement, 30 to 40% of the country’s class 1 nickel will be destined for this industry, according to the company Vale, which also mines nickel in Manitoba and Ontario.

Mine facilities.

The Vale company operates a nickel mine at Voisey’s Bay in Labrador.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Elon Musk’s company chose this nickel from eastern Canada because its exploitation there would be more ecological than elsewhere in the world.

According to a press release from Vale, nickel rounds from the Long Harbor refinery have an estimated carbon footprint of 4.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per tonne of nickel in 2020. In comparison, nickel balls and powder produced at the Copper Cliff Nickel Refinery in Ontario have a comparable footprint of 7.3 tonnes.

Nickel is used to store energy in batteries. The demand for this metal has increased significantly in recent years.

Major economic benefits

The economic benefits of nickel production will be immediate in Voisey’s Bay, according to Denis Larocque, president and CEO of Major Drilling, headquartered in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Dennis Larocque.

Major Drilling CEO Denis Larocque observes that mining is benefiting from the electric car craze.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Voisey’s Bay is one of the largest deposits in Canada […] It’s huge! In terms of fallout, we’re just starting to see it with everything that’s going to happen with the demand for electric vehicleshe observes.

The shift towards vehicle electrification is already having tangible impacts in the east of the country, both in the exploitation of resources and in the exploration to find more. And it’s only just begun, believes Denis Larocque.

With us [à Major Drilling], we’ve seen a 50% increase in our volume just in the last year. Part of that is nickel, but there’s also copper which is in high demand for electric vehicles. »

A quote from Denis Larocque, CEO, Major Drilling

Mr. Larocque explains that in an electric car, there are three times more nickel and copper than in a regular vehicle.

Concerns among environmentalists

This rising demand for minerals used in transport electrification may be good economic news, but it also raises concerns among environmentalists. According to some, believing in an electric car for all is on the wrong track.

Alain Deneault is a professor of sociology at the Université de Moncton. He strongly criticizes the mining industry which wants to take advantage of the manna of the electrification of transport.

Alain Deneault.

The professor of sociology at the Université de Moncton Alain Deneault roundly criticizes the mining companies.

Photo: Radio-Canada

To design an electric car, you need more rare metals than for a conventional car. What we do in the name of shoddy ecology, which is that of green capitalism, is to transfer the problem from one sector to another sector. But we don’t move forward like thislaments Mr. Deneault.

Even if Elon Musk’s company says it wants to extract nickel in an efficient and environmentally friendly way, according to many environmentalists, the solution to climate change lies more in the profound change in our way of life.

Based on a report by Janic Godin, with information from CBC

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