Vital link to Ontario's EV supply chain
Metal Tech News - July 13, 2022
Last updated 7/26/2022 at 2:39pm
Umicore to invest C$1.5B on lithium battery materials plant in Ontario.
To establish the missing link between Ontario's abundant lithium battery metal resources and the established automotive industry in the Canadian province, Belgium-based Umicore plans to invest C$1.5 billion (US$1.2 billion) to build a plant that will feed cathode battery materials into the North American EV supply chain.
"Canada and the Ontario province have all it takes for Umicore to establish a full-fledged, sustainable supply chain for battery materials, all the way from the mine right to the end-market of electric vehicles," said Umicore CEO Mathias Miedreich.
The planned facility would be the first of its kind in North America, combining the production of precursor and cathode active materials (CAM) manufacturing at a large industrial scale.
CAM – typically made up of a blend of specialty nickel, manganese, cobalt, and lithium products – is the final product needed for the cathode side of lithium-ion batteries.
Umicore's cathode materials plant is expected to enjoy the support of the Canadian government, which has signed a memorandum of understanding with Umicore to finalize a support application for the project under the federal Strategic Innovation Fund.
Canada Premier Justin Trudeau said the pact with Umicore "is about creating jobs, cutting pollution, and building a stronger, cleaner economy for Canadians."
Umicore has already signed an agreement with the Loyalist Township to secure a 350-acre plot of land in the midst of "Ontario's automotive corridor," where Ford, General Motors, Honda, Stellantis, and Toyota have auto plants.
In addition to being in the neighborhood of potential buyers of the lithium-ion battery materials it plans to produce, Loyalist offers access to a highly skilled workforce and renewable energy to operate the plant.
"The facility will help Canada and Umicore in their shared objective of achieving a carbon-neutral battery supply chain," Miedreich said.
Umicore says it is in negotiations with several potential North American customers for key contracts that will cement its investment decision.
"Once the key customer contracts are in place, this expansion in North America would complete our global rollout of regional supply chains for our automotive and battery cell customers to now three continents," the Umicore CEO added.
If the materials and recycling company decides to move forward, it is expected to take more than 1,000 people to build the CAM plant and several hundred to operate it when it is up and running.
It will also be a vital link in Ontario's mines-to-market critical minerals strategy, which is leveraging rich stores of critical minerals in the northern reaches of the province and the robust automotive sector in the south.
"This important investment by Umicore will turn Ontario into a North American leader in this high-value segment of the EV supply chain and further connect Northern Ontario's mineral sector to EV manufacturing in the south," said Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Vic Fedeli.
"Ontario has everything it needs, up and down our homegrown supply chain, to remain and strengthen its position as a North American auto manufacturing powerhouse," added Ontario Premier Doug Ford. "Umicore plans to bring this part of the EV supply chain to Ontario which will continue to transform our auto sector and create good jobs."
Further details of Ontario's critical mines-to-EV strategy can be read at An Ontario critical minerals strategy in the March 23, 2022 edition of Metal Tech News.
Umicore plans to begin building the Ontario plant next year and have the facility operating by the end of 2025. The Belgium company plans to produce enough cathode materials by the end of the decade for the lithium batteries to power approximately 1 million EVs per year.
The company is also seeking opportunities to enter the metals refining and recycling business in North America.