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Tesla’s lithium supply delayed as North Carolina project falls behind schedule

Tesla is seeing a delay in its lithium supply for next year as a North Carolina mining project from a new supplier is falling behind schedule.

In order to help accelerate the transition to electric transportation, Tesla has become increasingly involved in the raw material supply chain for battery cells.

Despite only now starting the production of its own cells, the automaker has been securing the supply of lithium, nickel, cobalt, and other minerals for its battery cell suppliers.

More recently, Tesla started to not only deal with established mining companies, but it also started to sign contracts for off-take agreements with junior mining companies looking to build new mining projects that would increase the supply of some critical resources for batteries.

This strategy helps those companies raise money to build their mining projects.

Last year, Tesla signed such an agreement with Piedmont Lithium, a company developing a lithium project in North Carolina.

The automaker agreed to buy about one-third of Piedmont’s planned 160,000 tonnes annual spodumene lithium production for at least five years.

The first deliveries were planned between July 2022 and July 2023, but now, the timeline has been delayed.

In a corporate update today, Piedmont confirmed that it still hasn’t submitted its mining permit application, and the definitive feasibility study is expected in the second half of 2021.

The company reportedly confirmed to Reuters that it will delay Tesla’s first deliveries without confirming a new timeline.

Last week, Tesla said that it is looking to secure 100 GWh of new annual battery cell production by the end of next year.

Electrek’s Take

While this is obviously not good news, I doubt that this will have a significant impact on Tesla’s production plan.

This deal was with a junior mining company for a project that wasn’t in operation yet, and if Tesla was planning to incorporate this lithium supply intelligently, it most likely anticipated some delays in bringing the project to production.

The automaker also has several deals with major lithium suppliers who are less likely to see delays.

Those deals with junior mining companies are more about ensuring that more projects come online and increase the global production capacity.

Tesla has done other similar deals with small junior mining companies that are still nowhere near production-ready, like Pure Energy Minerals in Nevada.

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