Chalice boss predicts big shortfall in battery metals

4th August 2022

Chalice Mining boss Alex Dorsch has echoed calls for automakers and original equipment manufacturers to invest directly in early-stage explorers, insisting there will not be enough metals to meet the world’s decarbonisation goals (reports The West Australian).

Speaking on the final day of the annual Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie, Mr Dorsch predicted massive shortfalls and sharply higher prices for class-one and battery grade nickel unless more big deposits were found quickly.

His prediction comes after the International Energy Agency estimated the world would need 60 new nickel mines by 2030 to meet existing zero-emissions pledges.

Meanwhile, pariah state Russia holds the world’s biggest nickel sulphide resources, and large laterite nickel sources in Indonesia and Philippines are compromised on sustainability values.

“It is looking very unrealistic that we will be able to scale up the metal production to satisfy demand,” Mr Dorsch said.

The former McKinsey specialist said vastly bigger sums of money needed to be spent on exploration while access to land by explorers needed to be expedited and streamlined.

“That’s probably the biggest bottleneck in our portfolio at the moment in terms of how quickly we can make further discoveries and expand our resource base,” he said.

The company only recently secured State environmental approval to conduct low-disturbance exploration activities in the Julimar State Forest to the north of its famed Gonneville polymetallic discovery near Toodyay.

Mr Dorsch also called for greater investment by automakers and OEMs in the earliest parts of the battery value chain, noting it was generally a 10 to 15-year lag between a company beginning to explore, making a discovery and bringing a mine online.

“Hopefully we’re a test case as to why they should come and invest in the earlier parts of the value chain,” he said.

The 360 million tonne Gonneville resource contains big quantities of palladium and platinum, which are essential in every stage of the hydrogen value chain, while the deposit’s nickel, copper and cobalt are crucial in electric vehicle batteries and for electrification generally.

While the known deposit sits under farmland, the prospective areas to the north lie under State Forest that some local residents and environmentalists argue should be protected and preserved.

Mr Dorsch said the company was on the front foot to secure a social licence to operate a mine at Julimar.

“There’s not many discoveries of this size around so the idea that we could be selective about which ones we develop and which ones we don’t is just not realistic,” he said.

Mr Dorsch said he believed there were as many opportunities as there were challenges for the mine to improve bio-diversity and make sure it can operate without any negative environmental impact.

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