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Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Nipissing area shortlisted for lithium processing site by German mining company

Rock Tech Lithium looks to place its second lithium refinery in Northern, Eastern Ontario
Provincial Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli meets with Rock Tech Lithium CEO Dirk Harbecke at the recent IAA Mobility conference in Munich, Germany. (Company photo)

Rock Tech Lithium, a German-Canadian company with a Lake Nipigon-area lithium deposit, is scoping out processing sites in Northern and Eastern Ontario.

Sudbury, Thunder Bay, the Nipissing District covering the North Bay-Temiskaming area, and Leeds Grenville in the Brockville area are on Rock Tech’s shortlist, according to a company news release issued today. 

The company, which recently opened an office in Toronto to oversee its Canadian operations, has ambitious goals to build “several lithium converters.” Its first lithium hydroxide processing site will be in Guben, Germany, and is targeted for production in 2026

Lithium hydroxide is battery-grade lithium coveted by the electric vehicle companies, some of which are building battery manufacturing plants in Windsor and St. Thomas. 

Rock Tech has the Georgia Lake lithium deposit, located just off Highway 11, and south of the town of Beardmore. The project is the advanced stages of exploration. The company has a 14.8 million-tonne lithium resource, located south of Beardmore and 145 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

With an initial open pit and underground mine life of nine years, Rock Tech expects to start mine construction some time in 2024.

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Rock Tech’s initial plan was to mine lithium from Georgia Lake and ship it overseas to Germany for conversion into battery-grade lithium. But the company announced last month it was searching out processing sites in Ontario and the northern U.S., closer to its proposed mine. 

The company said its “strategy and execution team” is currently assessing these Ontario sites. The selection criteria covers more than 150 items to determine its technical, economical, and logistical suitability. Discussions with politicians and government permitters are underway, the company said, to better understand the interests of the communities.

Rock Tech's timelines for an Ontario lithium converter is 2027. 

"Rock Tech is a growth story, focused on technology and sustainability,” said chairman and CEO Dirk Harbecke in a statement.

“We are thrilled to expand our conversion footprint to our home market of Canada. Building on what we have already started with the first studies in 2019, it is the right time to start implementation.

"We see a strong interest in our negotiations with Canadian and U.S. government authorities and industrial partners after the completion of basic engineering in Guben (Germany), where we have just applied for additional subsidies." 

The company said it’s assembled a team of 40 experts that include lithium processing specialists from Australia, industrial engineers from Germany, and mining experts from Canada. 

The company said it’s assessing its partnership options of “co-locating" in Canada with battery recycling partners. One option in the Nipissing District could be Electra Battery Materials, a Toronto company that’s refitting a refinery in the Temiskaming Shores area to process nickel, cobalt and recycling ‘black mass,’ which is the valuable minerals extracted from used batteries.

Thunder Bay is shaping up to be a lithium refining hub. Two companies with deposits in northwestern Ontario, Avalon Advanced Materials and Green Technology Metals, have selected the city to place lithium hydroxide conversion facilities. Avalon is targetting a late 2027 plant startup.

Sudbury’s Frontier Lithium, with one of the world's largest and richest lithium deposits in northwestern Ontario, hasn’t announced a processing site but it is preparing to establish a pilot plant near Nairn Centre, west of Sudbury.


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