The commodities group BHP and the Toyota-Panasonic joint venture Prime Planet Energy & Solutions have agreed on a memorandum of understanding on the supply of nickel. The material is to come from BHP’s new production facility in Western Australia.
The third signatory to the memorandum of understanding between BHP and the battery joint venture established last year by Toyota and Panasonic is Toyota Tsusho, a Toyota trading company. How much nickel sulphate and in what value BHP will supply to Prime Planet is not clear from the commodities group’s statement. After all, it is still a letter of intent, not a final supply contract.
The deal goes beyond just material supply: the companies also intend to find ways to implement standards for full traceability of raw materials and their ethical sourcing, and to explore the possibility of battery recycling.
“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,” said Masaharu Katayama, chief operating officer metals at Toyota Tsusho.
In July this year, Tesla had also signed a supply agreement with BHP for nickel, which will also be mined at BHP’s Nickel West site in Australia. Nickel is a small business for BHP, with the division accounting for less than one per cent of group revenues – BHP makes most of its sales from iron ore. Only last week, BHP produced its first commercial batch of nickel sulphate at its Nickel West plant at Kwinana near Perth.
Nickel is an important raw material for lithium-ion batteries and is used to increase the energy density of the cells. One of the world’s most important nickel producers is Indonesia, where about a quarter of global deposits are located. According to Reuters, the carbon footprint of Nickel West is said to be only about half that of nickel from Indonesia because a process with lower energy requirements is used in Australia.
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