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European Metals: Lithium – Tesla tried to buy Simbol Materials, a lithium extraction startup for $325m in 2014

 

  • The Desert Sun newspaper reported yesterday that Tesla had tried to buy Simbol Materials for $325m in 2014.
  • Simbol Materials was a lithium extraction company which claimed to have invented an efficient method to extract and producer battery-grade lithium.
  • Simbol is reported to have tried to negotiate a $2.5bn offer from Tesla causing Elon Musk to walk away and leaving Simbol Materials to collapse and cease operations.
  • Alger Alternative Energy, formed by former Simbol executives is now reported to be trying to secure Simbol’s technology.  The new company is looking to convert brines from the California Salton Sea geothermal plants into lithium on a large scale.  The brines are 25% solid containing chloride, sodium, calcium and potassium and small quantities, lithium.
  • Simbol Materials failed to raise the $400m it wanted to build its lithium extraction plant.  It’s not easy to finance new technology in the mining sector due to the high cost of building new plants, the time taken to get to commercial production and the potential cost of any holdups or problems in the extraction and sale of product.  These issues can sink a company and the risk becomes even larger if the process has not been fully trialled.
  • We note hydro metallurgical processes are in our experience more successful as they can be trialled and up scaled relatively easily.

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