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Ranked: Top 25 Nations Producing Battery Metals for the EV Supply Chain

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How to Use: Click the arrows on the left/right to navigate between current and projected rankings.

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The Role of Mining in the EV Battery Supply Chain

Batteries are one of the most important and expensive components of electric vehicles (EVs). The vast majority of EVs use lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, which harness the properties of minerals and elements to power the vehicles. But batteries do not grow on trees—the raw materials for them, known as “battery metals”, have to be mined and refined.

The above graphic uses data from BloombergNEF to rank the top 25 countries producing the raw materials for Li-ion batteries.

Battery Metals: The Critical Raw Materials for EV Batteries

The raw materials that batteries use can differ depending on their chemical compositions. However, there are five battery minerals that are considered critical for Li-ion batteries:

  • Cobalt
  • Graphite
  • Lithium
  • Manganese
  • Nickel

Miners extract these minerals from economically viable deposits and refine them from their raw forms into high-quality products and chemicals for EV batteries.

The Top 25 Nations Supplying Battery Metals

Some countries are more crucial than others to the battery metal supply chain. BloombergNEF ranked the top 25 countries according to the following methodology:

  1. First, they tallied the mineral resources, mining capacity, and refining capacity in 2020 and projected commissioned capacity by 2025 for the five key metals listed above in each country.
  2. Then, to determine the overall score for each country, BloombergNEF categorized the countries’ capacities into five bands. Countries in the lowest band received a score of 1 and those in the highest band received a score of 5.
  3. The overall score is the result of averaging the scores across the five categories for each country.

Now that we have a better understanding of how the rankings work, here are the top 25 nations for raw materials in the Li-ion supply chain in 2020 and 2025.

Country2020 Rank2025 Projected RankChange in Rank
China110
Australia220
Brazil37-4
Canada43+1
South Africa54+1
Chile64+2
Indonesia74+3
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)810-2
India913-4
Philippines913-4
Finland1110+1
Japan128+4
Argentina128+4
Mexico12120
U.S.1513+2
Vietnam1617-1
South Korea1716+1
Germany1722-5
U.K.17170
France17170
Czech Republic17170
Sweden2217+5
Poland22220
Hungary22220
Thailand22220

China’s dominance in the rankings shows that refining capacity is just as important, if not more, as access to raw materials and mining capacity.

China does not boast an abundance of battery metal deposits but ranks first largely due to its control over 80% of global raw material refining capacity. Additionally, China is the world’s largest producer of graphite, the primary anode material for Li-ion batteries.

Australia comes in at number two due to its massive lithium production capacity and nickel reserves. Following Australia is Brazil, one of the world’s top 10 producers of graphite, nickel, manganese, and lithium.

On the other end of the spectrum, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, and Thailand are tied at rank 22. However, it’s important to note that these are among the top 10 countries for cell and component manufacturing—the next step in the lithium-ion battery supply chain.

Countries on the Rise

Sweden’s rank rises five places between 2020 and 2025p, largely due to an expected increase in its mining capacity with nickel and graphite projects in the pipeline. Argentina is projected to jump up to eighth place thanks to its massive lithium resources and multiple mining projects in advanced stages.

Moreover, Japan is projected to move up four places with its first lithium hydroxide refining plant under construction. In addition, Japanese miner Sumitomo Metal Mining is planning to double battery metal production by 2028.

Although China will likely maintain its dominance for the foreseeable future, other countries are ramping up their mining and refining capacities. Given the increasing importance of EVs, it will be interesting to see how the battery metals supply chain evolves going forward.

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Electrification

The World’s Largest Nickel Mining Companies

Nickel has emerged as an important battery metal, and these ten nickel mining companies are producing the nickel needed for EV batteries.

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The World’s Top 10 Nickel Mining Companies

As the world transitions towards electric vehicles and cleaner energy sources, nickel has emerged as an essential metal for this green revolution.

Needed for the manufacturing of electric vehicles, wind turbines, and nuclear power plants, nickel is also primarily used to make stainless steel alloys more resistant to corrosion and extreme temperatures.

Using data from Mining Intelligence, this graphic shows the top 10 companies by nickel production along with their market cap.

The Biggest Nickel Miners by Production in 2020

Nickel has long been an important mineral for batteries, plating, and steelmaking, but it was only recently added to the USGS’s proposed critical minerals list.

As countries and industries realize the importance of nickel for the development of sustainable technologies, nickel mining companies will be at the forefront of supplying the world with the nickel it needs.

The 850 kt of nickel mined by the top 10 nickel mining companies is worth around $17.3B, with both production and price expected to grow alongside nickel demand.

CompanyMarket CapProduction
Nornickel$48B236.0 kt
Vale$59B214.7 kt
Glencore$64B110.2 kt
BHP$134B80.0 kt
Anglo American$50B44.0 kt
South32$12B41.0 kt
Eramet$2B36.0 kt
IGO$5B30.0 kt
Terrafamen/a29.0 kt
MCC$5B29.0 kt

Source: Miningintelligence.com, Yahoo Finance

Nickel and palladium miner and smelter Nornickel leads the list with 236 kt of nickel produced in 2020, the majority coming from its Norilsk division of flagship assets in Russia.

With 46% of Nornickel’s energy mix sourced from renewable power, the company is pushing the development of carbon neutral nickel, starting with reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 60,000-70,000 tons in 2022.

Vale follows closely behind in production and in its carbon footprint goals. The Brazil-based company’s Long Harbour processing plant in Newfoundland and Labrador produces nickel with a carbon footprint about a third of the industry average–4.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per tonne of nickel compared to Nickel Institute’s average of 13 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

With the top two companies producing more than half of the nickel produced by the top 10 miners, their efforts in decarbonization will pave the way for the nickel mining industry.

The Need for Nickel in the Energy Transition

Alongside the decarbonization of the nickel mining process, nickel itself powers many of the technologies crucial to the energy transition. Vehicle electrification is highly dependent on nickel, with a single electric car requiring more than 87 pounds of nickel, making up almost 1/5th of all the metals required.

With a history of being used in nickel cadmium and nickel metal hydride batteries, nickel is now being increasingly used in lithium-ion batteries for its greater energy density and lower cost compared to cobalt. Alongside the increase in usage, not all nickel is suitable for lithium-ion battery production, as batteries require the rarer form of the metal’s deposits known as nickel sulphides.

The more common form of the metal, nickel laterites, are still useful in forming the alloys that make up the frames and various gears of wind turbines.

Nickel is also essential to nuclear power plants, making up nearly a quarter of the metals needed per megawatt generated.

The Future of Nickel Mining and Processing

With nickel in such high demand for batteries and cleaner energy infrastructure, it’s no wonder that global nickel demand is expected to outweigh supply by 2024. The scarcity of high grade nickel sulphide deposits and the carbon intensity to mine them has also incentivized the exploration of new methods of harvesting the metal.

Agro-mining uses plants known as hyperaccumulators to absorb metals found in the soil through their roots, resulting in their leaves containing up to 4% nickel in dry weight. These plants are then harvested and incinerated, with their ash processed to recover the nickel “bio-ore”.

Along with providing us with metals like nickel, lead, and cobalt through a less energy intensive process, agro-mining also helps decontaminate polluted soil.

While new processes like agro-mining won’t replace traditional mining, they’ll be a helpful step forward in closing the future nickel supply gap while helping reduce the carbon footprint of the nickel processing industry.

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Electrification

Visualizing the Natural Graphite Supply Problem

In 2020, China produced 59% of natural graphite and over 80% of battery anode material. Here’s a look at the graphite supply problem.

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natural graphite

Visualizing the Natural Graphite Supply Problem

Graphite is a critical mineral for lithium-ion batteries, and its battery demand is expected to grow ten-fold by 2030.

Meeting this increasing demand will require a higher supply of both natural graphite and its synthetic counterpart. However, graphite’s entire supply chain is heavily reliant on China, which makes it vulnerable to disruptions while creating environmental challenges.

This infographic from our sponsor Northern Graphite highlights China’s stronghold over the graphite supply chain and outlines the need for new natural graphite mines.

China’s Dominance in the Graphite Supply Chain

From mining natural graphite to manufacturing battery anodes, China dominates every stage of the graphite supply chain.

For example, in 2020, 59% of global natural graphite production came from China. Mozambique, the second-largest producer, churned out 120,000 tonnes—just one-fifth of Chinese production.

Country2020E production, tonnes% of total
China 🇨🇳650,00059.1%
Mozambique 🇲🇿120,00010.9%
Brazil 🇧🇷95,0008.6%
Madagascar 🇲🇬47,0004.3%
India 🇮🇳34,0003.1%
Russia 🇷🇺24,0002.2%
Ukraine 🇺🇦19,0001.7%
Norway 🇳🇴15,0001.4%
Pakistan 🇵🇰13,0001.2%
Canada 🇨🇦10,0000.9%
Rest of the World 🌎73,0006.6%
Total1,100,000100%

China’s massive output makes the other top nine countries look substantially smaller in terms of natural graphite production. Moreover, China also dominates the manufacturing of synthetic graphite and the conversion of graphite into anode material for batteries.

In 2018, China produced nearly 80% of all synthetic graphite, and in 2019, it was responsible for 86% of all battery anode material production. This dependence on graphite supply from China puts the supply chain at risk of political disruptions and makes it unsustainable for the long term.

Unsustainable Production: Natural Graphite vs Synthetic Graphite

The carbon footprint of manufacturing partly depends on the source of energy used in production.

Coal dominates China’s energy mix with a 58% share, followed by petroleum and other liquids. This increases the carbon footprint of all production and especially that of synthetic graphite, which involves energy-intensive heat treatment of petroleum coke.

Energy sourceType% of China's energy consumption (2019)
Coal Fossil fuel58%
Petroleum and other liquidsFossil fuel20%
Hydro Renewable8%
Natural gasFossil fuel8%
Other renewablesRenewable5%
NuclearNon-renewable2%
TotalN/A100%

Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

One study found that producing one kg of synthetic graphite releases 4.9kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, in addition to smaller amounts of sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matter. While the carbon footprint of natural graphite is substantially smaller, it’s likely that China’s dependence on coal contributes to emissions from production.

Furthermore, concentrated production in China means that all this graphite travels long distances before reaching Western markets like the United States. These extensive shipping distances further exacerbate the risk of disruptions in the graphite supply chain.

The Need for New Sources

As the demand for graphite increases, developing a resilient graphite supply chain is crucial to the European Union and the U.S., both of which have declared graphite a critical mineral.

New graphite mines outside China will be key to meeting graphite’s rising demand and combating a potential supply deficit.

Northern Graphite is positioned to deliver natural graphite in a secure, sustainable, and transparent manner for the green economy.

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