Avalon to establish Ontario’s first regional lithium refinery

Mineral development specialists, Avalon Advanced Materials have signed a partnership agreement with Essar to provide minerals for EV manufacturers through novel lithium refinery.

Ontario’s strategy to establish a fully integrated lithium-ion battery supply chain has been accelerated by the announcement that Avalon Advanced Materials (Avalon) reached an agreement with India-based Essar Group to fund and develop a lithium refinery in Thunder Bay.

Avalon and RenJoules International have partnered, signing a binding letter of intent, to co-develop a regional lithium battery materials supply chain to serve electric vehicle battery manufacturers. It is intended to serve the requirements of future electric vehicle and battery manufacturers in Ontario and North America, sending Avalon’s Toronto-quoted equity nearly 47% higher to C22c per share.

Avalon Advanced Materials, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, are a mineral development company concentrated on metals and minerals utilised in clean energy and innovative technology, specialising in critical metals and minerals with growing demand in new technology.

Lithium Refinery construction

With the announcement of this agreement, the partners will immediately begin the key next steps required to construct their lithium refinery. This will include finalising initial commercial terms and completion of final feasibility studies for both the refinery operations and lithium mineral concentrate production at the Separation Rapids site that will provide the initial feed for the refinery. This will also involve finalising the exact location for the lithium refinery in Thunder Bay and proceeding with initial site preparation work both at Separation Rapids and the Thunder Bay site.

“This initiative of setting up a lithium refinery is a core part of Essar’s global strategy of investments in the energy transition towards decarbonisation with a prime focus on Green Hydrogen and Storage,” commented Kush Singh, CEO, Essar Power Limited. “Lithium is a foundational critical mineral for the battery supply chain and with the Ontario government’s stellar vision through its Critical Mineral Strategy, we are confident that this is the right location and time for our strategic partnership with Avalon and other stakeholders.”

According to Avalon, the lithium refinery could support 20,000 tonnes per year of lithium hydroxide and carbonate production at a capital outlay of close to $500m. Avalon and Essar plan to jointly fund the refinery’s development, and the partners expect additional funding support from government programmes and private investors, including Indigenous businesses in Northern Ontario.

Construction of the new refinery is projected to begin later in 2022 and is expected to be completed by 2025.

Lithium demands

Demand for lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate continues to flourish in North America as new EV and battery manufacturing capacity is established both in the US and in Canada.

Ontario is now well positioned to take advantage of the rapid growth with the recent announcement of Ontario’s first-ever Critical Minerals Strategy. Premier Doug Ford described the plan as “the government’s blueprint to connect industries, resources and workers in our province’s north to the future of manufacturing in the south as we build up home-grown supply chains.”

The agreement builds on growing Canada-India bilateral economic ties, supporting clean energy and foreign direct investment objectives.

“While EV manufacturing and lithium battery materials production can be the initial catalyst for starting critical minerals supply chains in the North, it is just the beginning,” concluded Avalon President Don Bubar. “Innovation of new products and new efficient processing technologies for other critical minerals such as tantalum, cesium, and rare earths, can inspire future growth into other areas of advanced manufacturing including aerospace technology.”

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