Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi is appraising investments in nickel and lithium projects as the demand for electric vehicle (EV) batteries soars, reported Reuters.

The company is also looking to increase its copper output.

The development comes as automakers try to electrify their fleets, triggering a global rush for a reliable supply of lithium, nickel, copper, and other key minerals.

By the end of the decade, supply is said to be likely insufficient in meeting the required demand.

Speaking to analysts, Mitsubishi mineral resources group CEO Satoshi Koyama said: “As global resource companies and others are looking for lithium and nickel, we are considering investing in the two metals.”

According to Koyama, Canada and Australia might be the nickel investment locations since they satisfy the requirements for safety from the perspective of geopolitical risk and access to renewable energy from the perspective of decarbonisation.

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Koyama added: “We are verifying what kind of nickel projects will make it to the profitability line, given technical hurdles and cost issues.”

Last year, the minerals group purchased a 15% stake in a joint venture with Giga Metals to develop Canada’s Turnagain nickel deposit.

Mitsubishi is also considering several lithium-related initiatives.

Koyama said that a new mine must have a downstream operation to transform the metal into raw battery material. He adds that the main challenge would be determining whether it can be done in Australia and North America.

The Daunia and Blackwater metallurgical coal mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin have been placed up for sale by Mitsubishi and its Australian joint venture partner BHP Group.

Koyama noted: “If the deal comes through, we may allocate the cash into growth segments such as copper and battery metals.”

According to Koyama, Mitsubishi also plans to increase its copper output by expanding the current mines and investing in new, potential projects.

The company currently has ownership interests in five copper mines in South America, including a 40% share in Anglo-American’s Quellaveco mine in Peru.