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Auto Giants Gobbling Up Critical Battery Metal Supply Chain Assets

Lithium News – As the energy revolution continues to march onward, several pension funds and carmakers have taken notice and are investing in critical minerals projects to tackle a looming battery metals shortage. For example, General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) isn’t done securing battery metals, having already shocked the sector by committing $650 million towards the newly commenced construction of Lithium Americas Corp.’s (NYSE:LAC) (TSX:LAC) Thacker Pass Lithium Mine in Nevada, and expressing interest in Vale S.A.’s (NYSE:VALE) Canadian base metals unit Vale Canada Limited. Now GM is attending a mining conference circuit in Florida, on the prowl for more battery metals, such as cobalt, copper, lithium, and graphite projects in Canada such as those from Patriot Battery Metals Inc. (TSXV:PMET) (OTC:PMETF) and Infinity Stone Ventures Corp. (CSE:GEMS) (OTC:GEMSF).

In the case of General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) with Vale S.A. (NYSE:VALE), a potential $2 billion deal could be on the way that would award the buyer a secure supply of the nickel and copper operations in play. And with its $650 million investment in Thacker Pass with Lithium Americas Corp. (NYSE:LAC) (TSX:LAC), the auto giant is getting closer to securing the battery metals it needs for the future.

However, one overlooked metal that has yet to be secured domestically is graphite, which was set to go into deficit supply mode back in 2022. For example, an electric vehicle contains more than 200lbs (>90kg) of coated purified graphite (CSPG)—which means it takes 10-15x more graphite than lithium just to make one Li-ion battery.

Given that the world’s largest graphite producer is China, by a wide margin, it’s becoming more apparent that secure domestic amounts are needed, and they’re needed fast.

Assuming a 60 kilowatt-hour battery in each, just one million EVs requires almost 80,000 tons of graphite. In 2022, US demand for natural graphite for all uses, batteries or otherwise, was just 72,000 tons.

Help is on the way, as Infinity Stone Ventures Corp. (CSE:GEMS) (OTC:GEMSF) recently reported it successfully refined 99.73% Carbon Graphite (Cg) purity from its Rockstone Graphite Project in a Metallurgy Program with SGS Labs. This comes after the company reported results in January 2023 that included an intersection of 3.36% Cg over 101.0m, including 21.96% Cg over 4.32m.

Now Infinity Stone Ventures has also announced plans to spinout the Rockstone project into its own entity.

"As one of our most developed projects, Rockstone presents an opportunity for potential development and exploration upside,” said Zayn Kalyan, CEO of Infinity Stone. “Rockstone has the best opportunity for further investment and accretive value to existing shareholders in a standalone entity. With a completed spin out, the new entity would have an opportunity to further develop the Rockstone asset, alongside other potential graphite opportunities."

Infinity Stone has utilized this project generation-spinout model before to enable its long-term shareholders to gain potential upside in the successor entities.

“We intend to continue to replicate this model and/or joint venture, with other projects in our portfolio,” continued Kalyan.

Graphite isn’t the only battery metal that Infinity Stone Ventures Corp. (CSE:GEMS) (OTC:GEMSF) has in its growing portfolio, as so far in 2023 it’s also been working on copper at its Zen-Whoberi Project, and expanded its Camaro Hellcat Lithium Project in Quebec.

The 5,187-hectare Hellcat Camaro Lithium project is located adjacent to the prolific Corvette Property of Patriot Battery Metals Inc. (TSXV:PMET) (OTC:PMETF) in the James Bay Region of Quebec.

"We are excited to push forward with exploration on the Camaro Hellcat Lithium Project", added Kalyan. “Given PMET's recent high-grade drilling results, including 156.9 m at 2.12% Li2O (176.4 m to 333.4 m), including 25.0 m at 5.04% Li2O (CV22-083)[1], we are eager to gain a further understanding of the project ahead of an extensive exploration program in the spring.”

The January drill results of Patriot Battery Metals surely set the lithium sector abuzz, as it was the company’s widest, highest grade lithium drill intercept returned to date.

“Visual estimates of spodumene abundance may give you a sense, but assays are the true measure and have certainly astounded with this hole,” said Darren Smith, VP of Exploration of PMET. “Drill hole CV22-083 has raised the bar ever higher with respect to the considerable potential at CV5 as we continue to delineate it, and by extension, the rest of the CV lithium district held by the Company that has yet to be drill tested.”

PMET went on to report results from another 52.2m of 3.34% Li2O, including 15.0m of 5.10% Li2O, and another set of results delivering 22.6m at 1.56% Li2O, including 3.19% Li2O in its first holes to test another pegmatite cluster on the property.

Meanwhile in Nevada, construction has commenced Lithium Americas Corp.’s (NYSE:LAC) (TSX:LAC) Thacker Pass Lithium Mine in Nevada, which received judicial approval against attempts to halt it. Back in January, General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) committed to investing $650 million to help Lithium Americas to develop the project which is targeting 80,000 tonnes per annum of battery-quality lithium carbonate production capacity.

The Thacker Pass Mine has the potential to be North America’s largest source of lithium for EV batteries, and would assist in US President Biden’s efforts to reduce dependence on China for the metal’s supply.

“The agreement with GM is a major milestone in moving Thacker Pass toward production, while setting a foundation for the separation of our U.S. and Argentine businesses,” said Lithium Americas President and CEO Jonathan Evans. “This relationship underscores our commitment to develop a sustainable domestic lithium supply chain for electric vehicles. We are pleased to have GM as our largest investor, and we look forward to working together to accelerate the energy transition while spurring job creation and economic growth in America.”

Now the market awaits the decision of Vale S.A. (NYSE:VALE) with regards to the divesting of its Canadian base metals unit Vale Canada Limited—which already signed a long-term nickel supply agreement with GM back in November 2022.

“This is a momentous agreement for Vale Base Metals that brings a key partner in GM into this first-of-its-kind facility for Canada and North America,” said Vale Executive VP of Base Metals, Deshnee Naidoo. “The proposed nickel sulfate project would utilize high purity, low-carbon nickel from our Canadian refineries and is a natural extension for the business, offering diversified sales and a fast entry and anchor point into the North American electric vehicle market. We look forward to continuing engagements with the governments of Canada and Quebec on this strategic critical mineral project.”

By February, GM was already being moved on to the next round of bidding for a stake in the Vale Canada Limited spinoff. Vale said it was in advanced talks with potential “high profile” partners, those with “deep EV transition experience,” which sources familiar to the matter told Bloomberg implied GM. Vale is looking to finalize a deal by the first half of 2023.

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