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Report: Global EV Mandates Require 388 New Mines to Meet Demand

A total of 388 new mines must be constructed by 2030 if countries around the globe, including Canada, hope to meet their timelines on mandating electric vehicles (EV), according to a new report.

Released by the Fraser Institute on Nov. 23, the report says the 388 new mines are essential to provide the metals required for EV production in Canada and the United States as well as a number of countries in the European Union and Asia.

Ottawa published draft regulations last December mandating all new passenger vehicles and light trucks be electric zero-emission vehicles by 2035. The plan is to phase in the rules starting with a 20 percent requirement in 2026 and up to at least 60 percent by 2030.

“The sheer scale of mining required to meet EV mandates raises serious questions about the timelines being imposed by governments,” said Kenneth Green, senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and author of the report, in a release.

“For context, as of 2021, there were only 270 metal mines operating across the U.S., and only 70 in Canada. If Canada and the U.S. wish to have internal supply chains for these vital EV metals, they have a lot of mines to establish in a very short period.”

Building Mines a Slow Process

According to the report, mines require a lengthy process to develop and are often plagued by environmental issues and regulatory barriers, particularly in Canada. A Globe and Mail article cited in the report indicated it can take up to 25 years to get a mineral mine up and running.

International Energy Agency (IEA) figures cited in the report indicate that a 15-year wait time from application to production is common for most mines. The average global timeline for a nickel mine is between 13 and 18 years from application to production while lithium production timelines are roughly six to nine years.

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“In light of these production timelines, the Canadian federal EV mandate, which is approximately 11 years away (2035), seems unrealistic,” Mr. Green said.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, who announced the mandate last December, said in a news release that Canada had “all of the critical minerals needed for batteries,” adding that the country was “well positioned to be a leader in making the vehicles that the world is looking to drive.”

With electric vehicles using roughly six times more rare metals than traditional vehicles, Canada’s mining sector will fall short as-is. According to the report, copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt, and graphite will be needed in quantities far higher than is the case for the manufacture of conventional internal combustion vehicles, and there aren’t enough of these minerals to meet increased demand without constructing more mines.

Worldwide, 50 new lithium mines are needed by 2030 along with 60 more nickel mines, and 17 more cobalt mines, the report says, citing IEA figures. Also needed are 50 more mines for cathode production and 40 for anode production as well as 90 mines for battery cells and 81 for EV production.

“A critical assumption embedded in the idea of an EV transition is that the world will be able to produce the materials—particularly the metals— needed to build electric vehicles, in government’s chosen quantities, on government’s chosen timelines,” Mr. Green said. “The significant risk of inadequate mineral and metal production threatens the viability and realism of government-mandated EV transition plans.”

Supply and Demand Issues

The “highly ambitious” government timelines are increasing demand for the metals and minerals needed to produce both electric vehicles and the batteries that run them. The IEA, according to the report, estimates that mineral demand for EV batteries will increase more than 30 times between 2020 and 2040, with “demand for nickel and cobalt growing by 140 times, and 70 times respectively.”

Mr. Green says that even if there were enough mines up and running, there would still be no guarantee that they would yield enough product to meet the continued long-term demand of the growing EV industry.

“Government’s history with picking winning and losing technologies, and executing on those choices over longer timeframes that involve high levels of uncertainty is not particularly encouraging,” he wrote in the report.

“Previous efforts to enshrine electric vehicles dating back to the mid-1900s have failed repeatedly, leaving behind the economic wreckage of those who, in good faith, dove headlong into government’s plans, along with unwitting and sometimes unwilling taxpayers who were tapped to fund the effort.”

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