Canadian lithium miner Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. has purchased land in Thunder Bay, Ont. to build a processing plant that will connect lithium mined in northwestern Ontario with battery cell manufacturers and electric-vehicle makers in southern Ontario and the United States.
The Toronto-based miner, which is developing lithium mining projects outside both Kenora and Fort Hope, Ont., said the industrial site on the Thunder Bay waterfront is serviced by road, rail, power and port infrastructure, and sits at the midway point between its remote mines and the battery and EV hubs emerging in the south.
"While there is more work to do with our government and community partnerships, we are confident we will help close the gap between increasing demand and domestic supply of this key resource and help fortify North American energy security,” Avalon President Zeeshan Syed said in a June 19 release.
The company did not disclose the financial terms of the land deal or provide a timeline for when it plans to start construction on the processing plant.
The Thunder Bay purchase comes less than a week after Avalon struck a deal with Belgium-based SCR-Sibelco NV to kick-start development of its lithium mining projects in northwestern Ontario.
Sibelco, a miner and industrial materials processor with operations in 32 countries, agreed to buy a 19.9-per-cent stake in Avalon June 15.
The two companies will form a joint venture to oversee Avalon’s Kenora and Fort Hope area lithium projects as part of the agreement, which is worth about $63.4 million. This includes Sibelco’s $13 million investment in Avalon and its 35-million-euro ($50.4 million) contribution to the joint venture.
Sibelco will own a 60-per-cent interest in the soon-to-be formed joint venture, while Avalon will hold a 40-per-cent stake. The partnership will include Avalon’s flagship Separation Rapids lithium development north of Kenora, as well as its Lilypad project near Fort Hope, but not the lithium refinery in Thunder Bay.
To fund the purchase of the industrial land in the Northern Ontario city, Avalon said it used a portion of Sibelco’s investment.
If in operation today, Avalon’s planned lithium hydroxide plant would be the first of its kind in Canada, though several competitors are making headway on developments of their own.
Avalon is among several early-stage miners currently advancing projects in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba to supply North America’s growing roster of battery cell manufacturers with much-needed lithium. Though production remains no less than several years away, the company signed a non-binding deal last September to supply battery cell maker LG Energy Solution with lithium hydroxide.