Tesla is planning to mine for lithium in Nevada, buying the rights to do so after their initial plan to buy mining company Cyprus Development Corp.

The news was reported by Bloomberg Green, who said that despite months of negotiations between Cyprus and the automotive giant, no decision was made and that Tesla was planning to mine its own lithium. Neither company has commented on the situation so far.

Tesla’s plan now appears to be to buy mining rights in Nevada, the same state in which Cyprus is based, and attempt to mine lithium via local clay deposits. The element is used for the production of high-grade, long-life batteries, and though the technology is very much on the rise, it’s still a small minority of all batteries sold and used, whether in electric vehicles or not. 

Tesla’s need for lithium – and lithium batteries – is based partly off the company’s pledge to create affordable EVs within the next few years, announced last week. Musk told investors in the Battery Day meeting that Tesla was developing a new, sustainable way of extracting lithium from clay, using sodium chloride (salt), a method not used anywhere else. Whatever the means, it was made clear that easy access to the material would be key for production going ahead. 

In the wake of this news, some experts are sceptical, and it’s not hard to see why. Tesla’s salt-based extraction method isn’t even finished yet, let alone viable at a large scale, and lithium has always been difficult to extract from clay, even with the best methods currently available. The demand for lithium spiking does seem very likely in the near future, and the chemical is not particularly rare, but mining it from clay is not a common procedure, with most lithium extracted through the evaporation of underground brine pools. Tesla’s plan appears to have been to buy the rights to the clay and secure ownership before anybody could actually be certain whether they could cheaply get at it.

If its process lives up to the promise, it’ll be a great win, securing long-life batteries for the next generation of Tesla EV’s – but right now, that’s a big “if.” Still, we can trust Elon, right?