March 12th • 2 min read
#Mining #Sustainability #Innovation #Engineering

Tesla Supports a Sustainable Nickel Mining Site in New Caledonia

The key to driving change is to start with a vision. All great leaders know it. And so does Elon Musk. Engineers across the world remember his speech back in July 2020. “Go for efficiency, obviously environmentally-friendly nickel mining at high volume. Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time, if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way. So hopefully this message goes out to all mining companies. Please get nickel.” Now how do the words became the reality?
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Tesla in New Caledonia.

A sustainable supply chain is key to delivering ethical products in large volumes. Tesla needs a mining provider that will meet long-term nickel demands, while also meeting ethical standards. Why the sudden interest in nickel? One particular by-product called NHC – nickel hydroxide – is necessary for battery manufacturing. As consumer demand soars, production rises and it tripled during the end of 2020 in New Caledonia.

 

Increasing demand for electric vehicles. 

The new Gigafactory in Berlin is slated to become the largest production facility for Tesla’s electric vehicles. In order to meet the raw materials demand, conversations between California HQ and New Caledonia started with a first meeting in 2019. Now it’s time to evolve. Tesla is eager to lead technical production at the Goro Nickel Mine. They presented on energy transition and how it could aid in the advancement of industrial processes for the Southern Plant with a sustainable core.

 

Ethical nickel required. 

At the end of 2020, mineral extraction on the island increased significantly by 16%. Infusing sustainability into the process of sourcing and preparing is essential to create a better supply chain. Minimizing environmental disturbance and avoiding damage is the core focus mining producers need to tackle next.

 

A positive sign for the workforce. 

Mining is a big business in New Caledonia. It makes up 90% of exports and provides 20% of private-sector jobs. Since Vale announced they were selling the Goro Nickel Plant without a buyer in mind, operations were paused. Unfortunately, many workers were impacted, losing their jobs temporarily and facing an uncertain future.

“The past few months have been difficult, without future plans for operations. Uncertainty and a lack of job security are hard to handle among the team. Now things are looking up that we know where we are going,” confides Marc NORGUET, chief engineer.

 

Tesla drives mining growth. 

The memorandum of understanding is signed and outlines Tesla’s role as a key partner in the Goro Nickel Plant. Tesla will act as a technical and industrial advisor to increase production capacity, incorporate sustainability standards, and secure the minerals supply for its car production facilities.

 

Sustainable waste management. 

With a southern plant reporting over 193.5 million tonnes of nickel and cobalt available, the future looks bright. However, the new leadership will need to keep an eye on the handling of waste management. This site creates 5.4million tons of wet tailings and the tank doesn’t have capacity beyond 2021. This limitation has become critical to launching a big project called the “Lucy Project” - building a dehydration plant and infrastructure to be able to hold future tailings. This announcement is a new breath for New Caledonia and the mining workforce.

Zoé Braun

Content marketing specialist

Brand storyteller in more than just one language. She writes moving human stories and translates technical topics so they're easy to understand. Pretty nifty. She considers business is about building trust and long-lasting relationships. She gets jumpy if she doesn't get at least 3 weekly hours of sport, running, yoga, kitesurfing, - you name it!

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