Tesla Gigafactory Will Be A Graphite Hog

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Tesla Motors Inc NASDAQ:TSLA continues to work out the details for its planned gigafactory, and one graphite producer says the automaker’s going to need a lot more new mines in order to fulfill the need for that facility. Great Lakes Graphite Inc CVE:GLK issued a press release on Tuesday stating that it’s in a good position to win some of that new business.

Tesla to need eight new mines

According to that release, Tesla Motors’ $6 billion gigafactory will need eight new graphite mines in order to operate. The automaker wants to double last year’s global output of lithium ion batteries in order to fulfill its plans to release a mass market electric vehicle. The big problem with those plans though is the expected graphite shortage, which can only be reduced or averted if new graphite minues open up.

Great Lakes Graphite said today that it’s a “strong candidate to fill some of that North American demand.” The company pointed to its Lochaber holdings in Quebec, which is a “large flake graphite project with a near-surface resource located close to infrastructure and end user markets.”

The race for graphite production in North America

Great Lakes Graphite CEO Paul Gorman said he wants to be one of North America’s first flake graphite producers. He said they will do this by opening up a quarry-style graphite mine with a “smaller footprint” that also requires less capital initially and offers an easy permitting process.

The executive added that they’re building relationships with end users in North America and points out that most North American end users are currently sourcing their graphite from China. However, he said that Tesla will need new natural flake graphite minds due to its “lower cost profile relative to synthetic graphite.” The automaker has said that the goal of building the gigafactory is to cut the price of its battery cells, so it needs pay as little as it can for graphite.

With such a high export tariff on graphite that leaves China, North American companies like Tesla face a challenge in getting flake graphite inexpensively.  The company’s press release further states that it’s possible China could increase that tariff even further and that it estimates that 20 new graphite mines are going to be needed to keep up with demand for the mineral by 2020.

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