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Clean energy journalism for a cooler tomorrow

New investment firm aims to scale up urgently needed battery materials

Kinterra Capital has raised a $565 million private equity fund dedicated to investing in new mines and processing plants to supply battery and EV factories.
By Julian Spector

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Racing toward a cleaner future. (Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Switching the global economy to run on clean energy instead of fossil fuels depends on a massive ramp-up in minerals extraction to supply batteries, solar panels, transmission lines and more. This has a lot of people worried that a lack of access to minerals will eventually hold back progress on clean energy. But the founders of new investment firm Kinterra Capital aren’t just fretting about it: They’re investing in projects to produce more of the minerals and chemicals that underpin crucial clean energy technologies.

Co-founders Cheryl Brandon and Kamal Toor set out to raise $500 million to put into the new mining and processing plants needed to supply the transition to clean energy. Last week, they announced that they ended up raising $565 million, which they will invest to acquire or buy controlling stakes in promising mining and processing projects that could expand the supply of critical materials. They’re targeting minerals like lithium, copper, nickel, cobalt and graphite, and the chemical compounds made by processing those minerals.

We are attempting to change the very things that move and power us: We’re going from fossil fuels to materials,” Toor said of the global energy transition. But, he added, The supply chains for the materials, especially the supply chains in stable jurisdictions in the Western world, are broken and fragmented.” 

China dominates many of the crucial inputs for lithium-ion batteries, currently the front-runner technology for decarbonizing vehicles and a valuable complement to renewable power plants on the electric grid. But it’s risky to bet the future of decarbonization on stable access to Chinese minerals, as China underscored recently by restricting exports of high-grade graphite, a popular anode material for lithium-ion batteries. The challenge isn’t just building enough global supply of critical minerals, but ensuring diversified and stable supplies for all the countries that need them.

Kinterra’s private-equity strategy focuses on projects in the U.S., Canada and Australia. The firm employs what Toor called a deep technical bench” of metallurgists, geologists, chemists and permitting experts to vet potential investments. After buying or taking a controlling stake in a project, Kinterra aims to carry it through permitting and development. 

We take a very ESG-first approach to developing these assets,” Brandon said. We don’t invest in high-risk permitting projects — we want to have the community’s support.” 

When a project is finally ready to build, Kinterra will cut deals with automakers and battery manufacturers to funnel the mine’s output into new materials for electric cars and grid batteries. 

As we develop these [mining and processing] projects, we integrate them into the downstream supply chain,” Toor said. All those manufacturing plants ultimately need the chemicals that come from the minerals.”

Kinterra has completed three investments so far, and aims for eight to 12 for the recently announced fund, Toor said. 

One of its first deals was to acquire a majority stake in White Pine North, a copper mine in Michigan. Kinterra described it as one of the largest independent copper mines under development in the U.S., holding an estimated 5.7 billion pounds of copper, a vital ingredient for power lines and renewable generators. Once up and running, that mine is expected to operate for 22 years. (The property was mined extensively from the 1950s until 1997, producing more than 4.5 billion pounds of copper.) 

Kinterra also took over Cannon Resources, which is developing two nickel projects in Western Australia, and a nickel processing project in Quebec, Canada that will turn nickel concentrate into battery inputs.

The Biden administration has prioritized onshoring the supply chain for clean energy, and the landmark Inflation Reduction Act contains several incentives for domestic manufacturing and for sourcing critical minerals in the U.S. or countries that have a free trade agreement with the U.S. So far, the sudden blossoming of the U.S. battery and EV manufacturing base has outstripped new mining operations in the country. 

It remains difficult to permit new mining in the U.S., and lengthy timelines make the prospect daunting for private investors. But the Kinterra leadership team worked in private equity for mining for years before starting the new firm, and has procured dozens of key mine permits in the United States, Brandon noted. And conditions could improve: The Inflation Reduction Act earmarked $350 million for speeding up government permitting timelines, she added, and that money has started to move. 

In the U.S. and U.S. free-trade-agreement countries, we have the minerals to execute on the energy transition,” Toor said. We have to get on with mining them out and building the processing infrastructure.”

Kinterra’s $565 million will be barely a blip in the total investment needed to supply a net-zero-emission society. But if this early mover in clean energy–minded mining development succeeds in making outsize returns for its investors, more money is sure to follow.

Julian Spector is a senior reporter at Canary Media. He reports on batteries, long-duration energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen and clean energy breakthroughs around the world.