In spite of the environmental benefit brought to the world by lowering emissions through its electric vehicles (EVs), Tesla is up against an environmental battle for its resources too, and it’s unlikely to offer the same benefits from behind closed doors.
On Tuesday, Financial Times shed more light on ethical nickel mining for electric vehicles, referencing Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s offer of a “giant contract” to any company which could “efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way,” mine nickel. Musk reached out to the mining community during Tesla’s recent quarterly earnings conference call.
Tesla faces major difficulty with this task, specifically in Indonesia, where top metal-producing companies often dump millions of tonnes of waste in the sea such as iron, which destroys coral reefs and marine life such as turtles. The country is expected to be the top supplier of nickel for the next decade.
For electric car batteries, nickel is the most expensive metal second to cobalt, trading at $15,320 a tonne.
Nickel mining, for the batteries used in said cars. You must know that nickel mining is extremely dangerous for the environment and the health of the inhabitants of cities near the mines,…
— Miguel Reis (@Miguel_A_M_Reis) January 3, 2018
The process of mining for nickel has long been considered unsustainable, often having harmed neighboring communities or, at the least, the environment, specifically where waste is not dealt with properly. Calls to boycott other nickel companies, like Russia’s Nornickel, have come in the form of local residents around the world.
Fortunately for Tesla, a Canadian mining company has also offered its services to Tesla in the way of sustainably sourcing nickel, though it is unclear whether the volume of nickel produced will be enough to maintain Tesla’s high-level of production on its own.
In any case, ethically mining metal will continue to be one of the growing pains as the mainstream embraces EVs, and until the industry can get over that hurdle, its benefits to the environment may remain void.
Indonesia does not have the best environmental track record, as the nation has been criticized heavily for burning down tropical rain forests and turning them into more profitable palm oil plantations.
Zachary Visconti is a writer with a knack for electric vehicles, technology, and climate change. Currently residing in Fort Collins, Colorado, Zach loves his partner, his cat, and a good cup of coffee.