General Motors will invest $650mn in a US lithium mine, a record investment by a carmaker to secure the raw materials used in electric vehicle batteries.
The US automaker will make an initial investment of $320mn by mid-2023 with a further $330mn to follow later on in return for exclusive rights to the lithium produced at Thacker Pass in the US state of Nevada.
Lithium Americas’s Thacker Pass mine is expected to begin production in the second half of 2026 and will generate enough of the silvery-white metal for up to 1mn EVs a year.
Despite being among the most lithium-rich countries in the world, the US has only one operational lithium mine, which is also located in Nevada. Thacker Pass has been opposed by conservation groups, and a court ruling could decide its fate within months.
Lithium has risen to the top of automakers’ security of supply concerns for future EV production. The metal’s price has surged more than 10 times since the start of 2021 because of shortages and developers have been struggling to bring new production online on time.
Ford, GM and Stellantis, the owner of the Jeep and Peugeot brands, have invested in or offered pre-financing to lithium, cobalt and nickel producers, but the latest investment by GM represents a significant escalation in the battle to secure battery metals and highlights growing integration between the automotive and mining industries.
The second tranche of funding will follow after Lithium Americas’s Thacker Pass mine has been separated from the rest of its Argentine businesses. The split is regarded by analysts as crucial for Lithium Americas to access US government funds because the mining company is partly owned by Ganfeng Lithium, a leading Chinese lithium producer.