Establishing a tech metals hub in Ontario
Explorers see Thunder Bay lithium plant as crucial catalyst Metal Tech News – Nov. 18, 2020
Last updated 11/17/2020 at 4:29pm
Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. and Rock Tech Lithium Inc. have agreed to work together to advance the development of a lithium battery materials processing facility in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The two lithium collaborators believe such a facility could help catapult the Ontario city on the north shores of Lake Superior to a global hub for technology metals and the industries that need them.
"Northern Ontario has the potential to become a major producer of lithium-ion battery materials, including cobalt, nickel, graphite and manganese, and Thunder Bay is an ideal central location to serve as a hub for establishing these supply chains," said Avalon Advanced Materials President and CEO Don Bubar. "Once established, they can be the catalyst for the creation of a lithium-ion battery manufacturing business in Ontario, along with electric vehicle manufacturing, as recently announced by (Ontario) Premier (Doug) Ford."
This facility would be designed to accept lithium mineral concentrates from Avalon's Separation Rapids lithium project about 280 miles (450 kilometers) northwest of Thunder Bay and Rock Tech's Georgia Lake lithium project about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of the city on the northern shore of Lake Superior.
A road accessible project about 45 miles (70 kilometers) north of Kenora, Ontario, Separation Rapids is considered to host one of the largest complex-type lithium-cesium-tantalum pegmatite deposits in the world. This deposit hosts two types of lithium mineralization – petalite, which is preferred for certain specialty glass-ceramic products and offers the potential to produce a relatively low cost for battery applications; and lepidolite, which is being demanded for conversion to the lithium carbonate used in rechargeable batteries.
A 2018 preliminary economic assessment outlined plans for a mine at Separation Rapids that would produce 71,500 metric tons of petalite and 11,800 metric tons of lepidolite per year for nearly two decades.
Rock Tech also completed a 2018 PEA for Georgia Lake that outlined plans for a mine that would produce 96,000 metric tons of spodumene, a lithium mineral, concentrate per year over an initial 11-year mine life.
Earlier this month, Rock Tech also completed a PEA for the development of a facility in Thunder Bay that could upgrade lithium concentrates into the lithium hydroxide, a form used by lithium-ion battery manufacturers.
On Nov. 16, Avalon and Rock Tech entered into an agreement to collaborate on the development of a processing facility that could convert petalite, spodumene and potentially other lithium mineral concentrates to lithium sulphate, which could either be shipped off site or locally upgraded to lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide.
The two lithium companies plan to conduct a piloting program aimed at confirming the ability to scale up the envisioned process to industrial scale and feasibility level studies.
They will also investigate alternative applications for a high purity aluminum silicate by-product expected from this process in other industries, such as the cement or ceramics industry.
"We look forward to working with Rock Tech to advance this exciting opportunity to help establish a new lithium supply chain in Canada that can also provide a secure supply source for Canada's European and International allies," said Bubar.