Ontario First Nation eyes lithium plant
Fort William FN signs LOI with Avalon on potential refinery Metal Tech News – April 7, 2021
Last updated 4/6/2021 at 4:37pm
Taking another step toward contributing lithium to a battery metals hub in Ontario, Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. has entered into a letter of intent with Fort William First Nation to collaborate on the development of a lithium battery materials refinery located on industrial lands in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
To be built on Fort William First Nation lands, this facility would be designed to upgrade 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, as well as potentially other emerging lithium mining operations in northern Ontario, into lithium hydroxide and other lithium battery materials.
"We are delighted to have the opportunity to create a new precedent for collaboration with Indigenous business toward establishing a lithium battery materials supply chain in Northern Ontario," said Avalon Advanced Materials President and CEO Don Bubar. "I share Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins' vision for how this operation can inspire other Indigenous businesses to become future suppliers of lithium mineral concentrates for the refinery and how FWFN can become the Hub of the North for all First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario."
This preliminary agreement is another example of Canadian First Nations becoming increasingly involved in technology metals production. Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction Ltd., a Northwest Territories-based company 51% owned by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, recently began mining rare earths on Vital Metals Ltd.'s Nechalacho REE project in Northwest Territories.
"The Yellowknives Dene First Nation is pleased to be the first Indigenous group in Canada to be responsible for mineral extraction on their traditional territory," said Yellowknives Dene First Nations Chief Ernest Betsina. "When Indigenous people conduct the mining operations, they are better able to control the process, resulting in better safeguarding of the environment."
While excited about the prospects of Fort William First Nation being involved in the potential development and operation of a battery plant in Ontario, Chief Collins cautions that the LOI is a preliminary and non-binding agreement. He said the environmental concerns of a lithium refinery need to be understood and addressed.
"Somewhere down the road, our council still has to buy in," Collins said. "We still have a lot of heavy lifting to do."
This heavy lifting includes Avalon and Fort William First Nation working together to:
• Identify a specific waterfront location with access to transportation infrastructure, hydropower, and natural gas to build the refinery.
• Conduct the necessary engineering, site preparation and construction design studies to prepare for initiation of refinery construction in 2022, once all necessary permits and authorizations are in place.
• Finalize the initial design capacity facility of the refinery once firm off-take commitments have been secured from interested battery manufacturers and design the facility to accommodate future expansion as demand for the products increases.
• Secure the necessary capital required to proceed with construction in 2022.
Avalon anticipated that the initial design capacity of the refinery will be at least 15,000 metric tons of the lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate used in batteries, as well as specialized ceramics and glass, per year.