High Voltage: Appetite for EV raw materials is growing as Ford enters $4.5bn deal for Indonesian nickel
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US automaker Ford has joined PT Vale Indonesia and China’s Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt as their new partner in a $4.5 billion nickel processing plant in Indonesia.
All three companies are making equity investments in the Pomalaa Block High-Pressure Acid Leaching (HPAL) Project through a definitive agreement celebrated at a ceremony last week featuring Indonesia President Joko Widodo.
The deal, which aims to advance nickel production in Indonesia and help make EVs more affordable, marks the first time Ford has invested in the Southeast Asian country and highlights the global push towards upstream investment to secure battery minerals.
It will also support Ford’s plan to deliver a 2 million EV production run rate by the end of 2026 and further scale over time.
More and more automakers are beginning to make inroads into the mining industry following General Motors’ US$650m investment in US lithium miner, Lithium Americas, in January.
Last week Mercedes Benz highlighted its willingness to allocate capital to support or ramp up a mining business at the carmaker’s annual environmental, social, and governance conference, and Tesla is reportedly considering buying Brazil-based lithium miner Sigma Lithium.
Ford vice president of EV industrialisation, Lisa Drake, says the three-way nickel processing agreement gives Ford direct control over the nickel it needs.
“This framework allows us to ensure the nickel is mined in line with our company’s sustainability targets, setting the right ESG standards as we scale,” she explains.
Early site works have already started at the Pomalaa Block HPAL project with full construction expected later this year.
Commercial operations will kick off in 2026.
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Liontown has agreed terms with Olympio Metals (ASX:OLY) to farm into its Mulline and Mulwarrie lithium projects in the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia.
The company is set to complete 1,100 soil samples across the projects before progressing to Stage 1 earn-in, which will take LTR a 51% interest within one year.
At that stage, Olympio can request to end the farm-in and to form a joint venture (JV), with Liontown funding 51% and Olympio 49%.
Several distinct nickel sulphide targets, including a 15km copper in soil anomaly, will form the basis of a 5,000m drill campaign at the Kabanga Jirani Nickel Project in April.
ADD says recent wet season geochemical surveys played a significant role in refining nickel sulphide drill targets with several of the anomalies containing coincident gravity, electromagnetics, and historic ultramafic intersections.
Importantly, a copper in soil anomaly of over 15km strike has been defined, adjacent to elevated nickel and cobalt soil anomalies.
This is a positive sign given that the neighbouring Kabanga deposit – owned by LifeZone and BHP (ASX:BHP) – contains a mineral resource of 58Mt at 2.62% nickel plus 0.35% copper and 0.19% cobalt.
Very high metallurgical recoveries, up to 96%, of Magnet Rare Earth Elements (MagREE), have been achieved from samples tested at the Australian Nuclear Science Organisation (ANSTO) from the Splinter Rock Project in Western Australia.
The results provide OD6 considerable confidence to proceed with further optimisation test work in parallel with targeted infill drill programs at the four main prospect areas (Prop, Flanker, Centre, and Scrum).
“These metallurgical results, undertaken by a specialist team at ANSTO, are a watershed moment for OD6,” OD6 MD Brett Hazelden says.
“Our immediate focus is to conduct targeted infill drilling in these clay basins and proceed with further optimisation testwork, bringing us closer to our near-term goal of declaring a significant, high-quality maiden JORC mineral resource estimate.”