The anticipated announcement by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval Thursday afternoon that Tesla Motors will build its lithium-battery plant near Reno, Nevada, is expected to be a godsend for Nevada lithium mining projects.
The choice of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Complex along Interstate 80 in Storey County, Nevada as the location of the $5 billion battery factory provides ready access for lithium at a location close to Tesla’s Freemont, California, assembly plant. The company has already begun developing a site near Reno.
The plant is expected to begin production of 500,000 lithium battery packs by 2017 for use in Tesla’s Model 3 cars.
John Boyd, a principal of the site selection firm The Boyd Company, told the Wall Street Journal, “I think the single most important factor is the [site’s] low-cost green power, including solar, wind and geothermal energy for the plant. He also cited Nevada’s lack of corporate and personal income taxes as positive factors.
Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, said the company has a commitment from Panasonic Corp, which already supplies batteries for Tesla’s Model S, to help run the battery cell-making operations and underwrite some of the costs.
Located near the former Sleeper Gold Mine in Humboldt County, Nevada, the Western Lithium’s King Valley project is often promoted thusly: “Nevada is uniquely positioned to support the world-wide increase in renewable energy production and demand for electric vehicles through lithium mining—the key ingredients to the high-performance batteries, which will power electric vehicles and be used in utility-scale energy storage projects.”
Steve Hill, executive director of Nevada’s Office of Economic Development, observed, “Nevada is lithium rich—second only to the size of deposits found in Chile.”
Nevada currently is home to the only brine lithium operation in the United States. Rockwood Lithium, which produces lithium carbonate from brines near Silver Peak, Nevada, has invested $75 million in an expansion of its U.S. lithium production. Pure Energy Minerals holds contiguous claims near the Silver Peak operation.
Gov. Sandoval is expected to announce that he will call a one-day special session of the Nevada Legislature next week to approve financial incentives for Tesla. The special session is expected to cost taxpayers from $25,000-$40,000.
Political groups have criticized the lack of transparency in the negotiations between the governor’s office and Tesla, and whether the state constitution permits the governor to hand tax dollars to private companies. However, the project is estimated to bring 6,500 jobs to the Silver State.