Tesla is coming to New Zealand in January. Photo / John Barker, Ports of Auckland
Greenpeace has launched a new interactive website that lets you see where major electric vehicle manufacturers stand on deep sea mining.
Tesla Chairman Robyn Denholm used her 2021 Apec CEO Summit keynote to call on governments to co-invest in new nickel and lithium mines.
“Today there are about 1.5 billion cars in the world and 16 million are electric, or about 1%,” Denholm said.
But even at this level, the electric vehicle industry (and makers of phones and laptops and the like) faces a supply shortage for key elements used in batteries.
Tesla alone would sell 20 million electric vehicles a year by 2030, she said. 2030 is the year most major automakers announce they will leave internal combustion engines behind.
To meet anticipated demand, “lithium-ion cell production will need to increase 23 times from its current level by 2035,” Denholm said.
One possible solution lies offshore.
“Vast fields of rock the size of your fist cover the Pacific seabed. Beneath miles of ocean, these nodules erupt with copper, nickel, manganese and cobalt, all essential for building batteries for electric vehicles,” National Public Radio reported in the United States.
NPR points to a peer-reviewed article that says deep-sea mining may actually have a lower carbon footprint than land-based mining because it doesn’t involve deforestation (and is safer for people). the workers).
In March 2021, BMW and Volvo Group (from which Polestar emerged), as well as Samsung and Google, pledged to refrain from sourcing minerals from deep seas.
Greenpeace’s “Race to the Top” site also thanks Renault and VW for backing a global moratorium on deep-sea mining.
Tesla gets a “Hey @Tesla, we need you to take a stand and promise not to deep sea mining”.
Ford and GM receive the same request.
According to Greenpeace, “Deep sea mining is a destructive and untested industry where minerals are sucked from the ocean floor and the waste is pumped into the ocean, leaving a plume of sediment that chokes marine life, threatening vulnerable ecosystems, fisheries and people’s way of life.”
The organization says New Zealand is “silent” on the issue.
And Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer recently accused our government of “doing nothing, rather than addressing this environmental disaster.”
Greenpeace and its peers have also had a lot to say about the land mining of materials used in electric vehicles.
The Financial Times recently reported that Chile’s extraction of lithium from underground brine reservoirs – which account for around a quarter of the world’s supply – has been the subject of legal action by environmentalists who have said energy-intensive mining had caused groundwater depletion and soil contamination, among other things. other issues.
Hard rock lithium mining in Australia causes fewer side effects, but leaves scars on the landscape.
Denholm said the mining and refining industries also need to decarbonize, and technologies for cleaner lithium extraction are being developed by various companies.
One is the Taupō-based company Geo40, which is developing a process for extracting lithium from geothermal brine. Geo40, which partners with Contact Energy for geothermal fluid access, recently raised $7.5 million to develop its technology in a funding round led by local private equity firm Pacific Channel. , which in turn partners with Crown-backed NZ Growth Capital Partners (NZGCP). NZ Government position.
Denholm also pointed out that Tesla has a growing business in home solar panels and home batteries, which means an electric vehicle can be charged cleanly (although, for now, New Zealand has yet to come). turning to coal for refills that dry out droughts as thousands of electric vehicles put more strain on our power systems).