GM invests in nickel and cobalt operation in Australia

Jamie L. LaReau
Detroit Free Press

In its ongoing effort to secure the materials needed to make batteries for electric vehicles, General Motors is investing in a metals operation in Australia.

On Tuesday, GM said it will make a strategic investment in Queensland Pacific Metals of Australia to secure a supply of nickel and cobalt, both critical to making EV batteries.

As part of the deal, GM will invest up to $69 million in the company's Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub (TECH) Project, which will build a battery materials refinery specializing in nickel and cobalt in northern Australia.

GM plans to transition its portfolio to all zero-emission vehicles by 2035. In the next three years, GM said it will bring 28 new EVs to markets worldwide.

"The collaboration with Queensland Pacific Metals will provide GM with a secure, cost-competitive and long-term supply of nickel and cobalt from a free-trade agreement partner," Jeff Morrison, GM's vice president of Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, said in a statement. "The agreement demonstrates our commitment to building strong supplier relationships and is aligned with our approach to responsible sourcing and supply chain management."

Morrison said GM has binding agreements in place to secure all battery raw materials needed to get GM to its goal of building 1 million EVs in North America by the end of 2025.

UAW Local 5960 member Kimberly Fuhr inspects a Chevrolet Bolt EV during vehicle production on Thursday, May 6, 2021, at the General Motors Orion Assembly Plant in Orion Township.

"This new collaboration builds on those commitments as we look to secure supply through the end of the decade, while also helping continue to expand the EV market," Morrison said.

Earlier this year, GM announced it made three supplier agreements to secure access to lithium, nickel, cobalt and Cathode Active Material (CAM) used in EV batteries. In December, GM announced a joint-venture deal with POSCO Chemical, which supplies CAM. In March 2022, GM said that new joint-venture will build a factory in Quebec. That plant is under construction.

Stephen Grocott, CEO of Queensland Pacific Metals, said GM's investment will help it source nickel and cobalt in an environmentally safe way.

"GM’s investment in our company and the associated offtake brings us one step closer towards construction of the TECH Project where we will one day aim to deliver the world’s cleanest produced nickel and cobalt," Grocott said in a statement.

The TECH Project is expected to begin construction in 2023.

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Contact Jamie L. LaReau at Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more on General Motors and sign up for our autos newsletterBecome a subscriber.