Tesla Wants To Do Without Rare Earths. Or Not?

by | 7. Jun 2023 - 13:58 | Politics

Critical raw materials and the expansion of electromobility are the topics of discussion at a virtual meeting.

At an investor event in March, e-car manufacturer Tesla announced its intention to abandon the use of rare earth magnets in its electric vehicles in the future. The consulting firm Adamas Intelligence immediately classified the impact on demand for neodymium and other rare earth metals as marginal, but Tesla’s announcement caused unrest in the industry. Perhaps unfairly, as a conversation between CEO Elon Musk and Mongolia’s Prime Minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene suggests. According to the state news agency Montsame, the virtual meeting discussed cooperation in electromobility. The minister’s call for joint research projects in the field of rare earths and copper, both critical raw materials for electromobility, raised eyebrows.

It remains to be seen whether the politician has aroused Tesla’s interest. The carmaker had justified its announced forgoing of rare earths, with the side effects of mining these critical minerals. However, since the industry in Mongolia is clearly less developed than in China, for example, the establishment of environmentally friendly extraction and processing methods would make sense. The huge landlocked country is currently stepping up efforts to attract investment in its raw materials sector and transfer know-how into this area. More than three million tons of rare earths alone are believed to exist in Mongolia, along with gold, iron ores, and many other mineral resources. For Tesla and other car manufacturers, the country could thus be an alternative to China, which dominates the market for rare earths. Tensions between the People’s Republic and the West repeatedly fuel doubts as to whether the supply of these and other strategic resources is secure in the long term.

Photo: iStock/Teka77

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