by Vijay Prashad – Alejandro Bejarano
Elon Musk, the head of Tesla, wants to build an electric car factory in Brazil. He was supposed to meet Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, in Miami in early March, but he was too busy; instead, Musk will go to Brazil sometime this year.
All eyes are on the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, whose Secretary of International Affairs Derian Campos is in direct contact with Musk. Two automobile manufacturers—BMW and GM—already have factories in Santa Catarina. Marcos Pontes (Minister of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Communications) held a video conference with Anderson Ricardo Pacheco, a senior Tesla official. They were joined by Daniel Freitas, a congressman, and Claiton Pacheco Galdino, who is the business development director for Criciúma, a city in Santa Catarina. They are eager for Tesla to open a Gigafactory—Tesla’s name for a big factory—in South America’s largest economy.
It helps that Brazil has considerable lithium deposits—mostly in the southeastern states of Minas Gerais and Paraíba and in the northeastern states of Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte.
The production of lithium is limited, largely having been used for ceramics and glass production. The Bolsonaro government is interested in increasing the production of lithium, including as a key raw material for the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars such as those made by Tesla.
But Brazil’s lithium will not be sufficient. Tesla would need to import lithium from elsewhere.