As the world’s automotive players continue to ramp up electric vehicle (EV) production, Africa is ideally placed to take profit from it.
EV manufacturers are scrambling to access rich deposits of lithium, copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum, all essential to the development of zero-emission cars.
China, the world’s top EV manufacturer, remains relatively unchallenged in the area of battery materials exploration and extraction on the continent.
China sourced roughly 60% of its cobalt supply from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to the South China Morning Post.
The Asian heavyweight also has projects ongoing in the continent’s copper belt, including operations in South Africa, the DRC and Zambia.
China and Zimbabwe have signed a landmark $2.8 billion deal to establish an industrial hub for battery metals production that will process lithium, platinum and nickel. The 50-square-kilometre plant is expected to be built before the end of 2024, according to VOA News.
Prices for elements like lithium have soared in line with EV interest worldwide. The lithium price index is up more than 140% this year, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.
Chris Berry, the president of New York-based commodities advisory firm, House Mountain Partners, said the sudden surge in lithium pricing could be attributed to several factors.
These include new and favourable government policies like subsidies, but he also adds that traditional manufacturers are finally coming to realise the importance of securing a reliable supply of battery metals if they are to achieve their EV sales ambitions.
China accounts for the lion’s share (59%) of lithium refining and processing, with Canada (3.5%) and the US (3%) falling well short.
Britain recently made moves to enter the industry and has announced a $710 million lithium refinery that is expected to produce roughly 50 000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium every year.
Not only were African minerals fundamental to powering the EV revolution, but also to other technologies critical to addressing climate change, Zayn Kalyan, CEO of EV materials supplier Infinity Stone Corporation, told the media.
Kalyan added that many African minerals were of the highest grade, meaning the extraction and refinement processes would be less impactful to the environment.