GM to invest $650 million in lithium mining company in US

General Motors said Tuesday it will jointly invest with Lithium Americas Corp. to develop the Thacker Pass mine in Nevada, the largest known source of lithium in the United States and the third largest in the world.

GM will make a $650 million equity investment in Lithium Americas, which GM CEO Mary Barra told Wall Street investors is “the largest investment by an automaker to produce battery raw materials.”

Barra said when the Thacker Pass mine is operational in the second half of 2026, it could support annual production of up to 1 million EVs and create 1,000 jobs in construction and 500 in operations. GM will have exclusive access to the lithium once the investment process is complete.

“It’s a landmark investment and certainly won’t be the last” that GM announces, Barra said.

GM has made an ongoing effort to secure the materials needed to make batteries for its EVs. For example, last fall it made a strategic investment in Queensland Pacific Metals of Australia to secure a supply of nickel and cobalt, both critical to making batteries.

Earlier last year, GM announced it made three supplier agreements to secure access to lithium, nickel, cobalt and Cathode Active Material (CAM) used in EV batteries. In December 2021, GM announced a joint-venture deal with POSCO Chemical, which supplies CAM. In March 2022, GM said that new joint-venture will build a factory in Quebec.

Lithium carbonate from Thacker Pass will be used in GM’s Ultium battery cells. Lithium is a key material in lithium-ion batteries. It can withstand repeated charging and discharging, which includes enabling fast charging.

“Our future production will increasingly draw from domestic resources like the site in Nevada we’re developing with Lithium Americas,” Barra said in a statement. “Direct sourcing critical EV raw materials and components from suppliers in North America and free-trade-agreement countries helps make our supply chain more secure, helps us manage cell costs and creates jobs.”

GM has announced four U.S. battery cell plants, including the Ultium Cells joint venture plant with LG Energy Solution in northeast Ohio, which is in production. Another Ultium Cells plant being built in Tennessee will start operating this year and one under construction in Lansing will open next year. GM says it will build a fourth Ultium Cells plant, but will need to find a new partner since it could not agree on a location for it with LG Energy.

When asked about plans for a fourth battery cells plant, GM CFO Paul Jacobson told the media Tuesday that GM is measuring how it can increase capacity at the three battery cells plants it has started and, “we’re going to have far more than four plants as we go through this journey, but this is an ordered approach at this time.”

More:GM begins production of 2024 GMC Hummer SUV in Detroit

More:GM beats expectations for Q4 and full-year profits, sees continued gains in 2023

Contact Jamie L. LaReau: Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more on General Motors and sign up for our autos newsletterBecome a subscriber.