Nickel mining proposal in Minnesota could help produce Tesla batteries

A proposal from Talon Metals LLC would bring nickel mining operations to central Minnesota that could in part benefit Tesla electric vehicles.

A proposal from Talon Metals LLC would bring nickel mining operations to central Minnesota that could benefit Tesla electric vehicles.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Tamarack Nickel Mine would include construction of an underground mine and supporting facilities roughly 1.5 miles north of Tamarack, Minnesota.

The project would have an 80-acre footprint on the surface that would include an access portal to the underground mine, temporary storage for ore and waste rock, and facilities to collect and treat water, according to the announcement.

In 2022, Talon Metals signed a memorandum of understanding to supply a portion of the nickel it produces to Tesla for electric vehicle batteries. The deal requires Talon to make "commercially reasonable efforts" to open the mine by Jan. 1, 2026.

"We understand that Minnesotans have widely differing perspectives regarding this proposed project and nonferrous mining more broadly. The DNR, however, must base its decisions on the facts and the law," said Katie Smith, the DNR’s Director of Ecological and Water Resources Division. "I want to assure all Minnesotans that the DNR is committed to a rigorous, transparent, and neutral review of the project, based on science and applicable state law."

The proposal would mine ore-bearing rock containing nickel and other precious metals at depths of approximately 500-2,000 feet below the surface. Mined rock would be transported by rail to a processing facility in Mercer County, North Dakota.

In January 2022, mineral mining leases for Twin Metals Minnesota in northeast Minnesota were canceled by the Department of the Interior under the advisement of President Joe Biden.

Before the decision, in October 2021, the Biden Administration ordered a study that could ban mining near the Boundary Water Canoe Area (BWCA) for 20 years.

Per the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act, the proposal requires preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), with the DNR as the designated responsible governmental unit.

The DNR plans to provide an EIS on Talon Metals’ submission, reviewing potentially significant environmental and socioeconomic issues, reasonable project alternatives, and potential environmental mitigation options.