Australia’s BHP Group is to supply nickel sulphate to a joint battery-making venture between Toyota Motor and Panasonic, as it strengthens its presence in the rapidly growing electric-vehicle sector.
The deal with Prime Planet Energy & Solutions – formed by Toyota and Panasonic in April 2020 – would boost supply to electric-vehicle makers who are increasingly turning to sustainable, lower carbon sourcing of raw materials.
The world’s largest miner had already agreed in July to supply nickel to Tesla Inc and work with the company on lowering carbon emissions in the battery supply chain.
BHP’s agreement with Prime Planet and Toyota Tsusho, the automaker’s metals trading arm, pursues similar objectives and also aims to boost transparency around raw materials sourcing and human rights reporting.
The parties will also explore the possibility of recycling batteries at BHP’s Nickel West operations at Kwinana, near Perth, for further processing and production of nickel-bearing products, they said in a joint statement.
“This partnership has great potential to secure competitive raw materials as well as to create battery material recycling loops, which is crucial for EV development in the future,” Masaharu Katayama, chief operating officer of metals at Toyota Tsusho, said.
BHP last week commercially produced its first batch of nickel sulphate crystals at Nickel West as it aims to tap booming demand from electric vehicle makers.
The miner’s nickel division accounts for less than 1% of its earnings, which are dominated by iron ore.
Nickel makes batteries energy-dense, allowing cars to run further on a single charge. While the market is not expected to fall short in the coming years due to new forms of supply out of Indonesia, competition is heating up for the least emissions-intensive types of nickel.
Nickel West’s carbon footprint is around half the size of even the newest producers in top supplier Indonesia that use an energy-intensive technology to extract nickel from laterite ores, a consultant told Reuters.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara