GM Strikes $69M Deal to Source Nickel and Cobalt for Car batteries

GM Strikes $69M Deal to Source Nickel and Cobalt from Australia,” DBusiness Magazine, Tim Keenan

Like the rest of the big three and other auto manufacturers, GM is preparing to go electric for cars and abandon oil. GM Detroit secured a new source of cost-competitive nickel and cobalt in Australia for its Ultium battery cells. This is coming after negotiating a $69 million investment with Queensland Pacific Metals of Australia.

Queensland developed a new proprietary process for refining nickel laterite ore resulting in a reduction in waste. It also eliminates the need for a tailings dam. As part of a supply agreement, GM is expected to invest $69 million in the Queensland Pacific Metals project. The funding will be for the development of the Queensland Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub (TECH) Refining Project in northern Australia.

Raw Material Supply

The majority of nickel laterite deposits typically occur within the 23.5th parallels, north and south of the equator. These areas are within warm, tropical environments where chemical and mechanical weathering thrives. Subsequently, the majority of nickel laterite deposits are in New Caledonia, Western Australia, Indonesia and South America. New Caledonia contains 21% of the world’s nickel laterites, followed by Australia (20%), the Philippines (17%) and Indonesia (12%). 


Nickel laterite ore is used to produce nickel metal for the manufacture of stainless steel as well as nickel sulfate. The nickel sulfate is a key ingredient in the batteries of electric vehicles. Consequently, nickel laterite production is on the rise and is surpassing the alternative conventional sulfide deposits used for similar. The efficiency of mining and processing nickel laterites results from the mineralogical composition.


Apparently, Queensland Pacific Metals is using a new process to refine nickel laterite at its TECH facility. A new patented refining and recycling process or the DNi Process. According to Queensland, the process involves environmentally friendly methods for extracting nickel, cobalt, and other precious metals from the laterite. Briefly, the DNi Process TM is a greener metal extraction technology. It does not produce wet tailings requiring containment dams or dumping at sea. The unique patented process consumes very little acid. Typically 30-80kg of acid is used per tonne of ore processed.

Impact on GM?

Jeff Morrison, vice president of global purchasing and supply chain at GM: “GM already has binding agreements securing all battery raw material supporting our goal of 1 million units of annual capacity in North America by the end of 2025. This new collaboration builds on those commitments as we look to secure supply through the end of the decade, while also helping continue to expand the EV market.”

In other words, more electric cars sooner.

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