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Thunder Bay on the brink of becoming serious Lithium producer

Jan 23, 2021

By Stephane Villeneuve
Thunder Bay might soon become a driving force in green energy, as Avalon Advanced Materials and RockTech Lithium Inc. sign a letter of intent to collaborate on a potential Lithium Sulphate (Li2SO4) production facility in the city. A centralized production hub in the area offers the community not only increased economic prosperity, but also a step toward a brighter and cleaner future for all.
Demand for green technologies continues to rise as the world begins to ditch fossil fuels for renewable energy. In response, the demand for lithium, nickel, cobalt and other metals that power the green economy also grows. Realizing this impending demand, Avalon Advanced Metals and Rocktech Lithium are exploring Thunder Bay as a possible site for a Li2SO4 concentrator.
The project looks to create a process flow sheet for the extraction of Li2SO4  from petalite, spodumene and potentially other lithium concentrates, as well as conduct a pilot campaign to test scalability of the process to an industrial scale. The lithium sulfate concentrate can then be further refined or exported to international markets. Both companies are exploring alternative methods for further refinement into the more useable lithium hydroxide (LiOH). Additionally, one of the beneficial byproducts of the process is high quality aluminum silicates with potential applications in the cement and ceramics industries.
“Northern Ontario has the potential to become a major producer of lithium-ion battery materials, including cobalt, nickel, graphite and manganese, and Thunder Bay is an ideal central location to serve as a hub for establishing these supply chains,” said Avalon’s President and CEO, Don Bubar. “Once established, they can be the catalyst for the creation of a lithium-ion battery manufacturing business in Ontario.”
Stakeholders in the process note that the city of Thunder Bay offers the infrastructure and power requirements, while also having access to both rail and sea for ease of export. Located along Lake Superior, the city is already host to a multitude of exploration and mining services and the addition of a Lithium concentrator would be seen as a big windfall for the city.
“It could be huge for Thunder Bay,” stated John Mason, project manager for mining services at the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission in a recent interview. Mason says a processing plant could create about 100 jobs and potentially create spinoff manufacturing within the city.
However, a fully operational lithium production plant is still a long way off. “You’re looking at a two to four-year window before they’re ready to go (on construction),” said Mason, “and that doesn’t include permitting, the aforementioned economic studies as well as fund-raising the capital to begin construction.”
A recent PEA created by RockTech lithium highlighted the potential of a full lithium production facility in the area and with excess capacity to process material coming from other sources.
Simon Bodensteiner, Rocktech’s Chief Executive Officer stated “In our recently published PEA for a fully integrated lithium hydroxide producer we have shown that we can greatly improve economics by scaling up the size of the lithium converter to its technical limits. Last week we announced a capital raise to fund a pre-feasibility study with exactly that aim – building a converter with an annual output of 24,000 tonnes. As Georgia Lake may not provide sufficient feedstock for a converter with such a large nameplate capacity, we are assessing third party concentrate sources. Avalon’s Separation Rapids Lithium Project may qualify as one of them providing we can successfully develop a flow sheet that allows us to treat the petalite ore together with our spodumene ore from Georgia Lake and other sources. We are very happy to join forces with Avalon to assess this potential value-add opportunity,”
The area is also being explored by other companies looking to cash in on the green wave including Frontier Lithium exploring the PAK deposit located north of Red Lake, and Infinite Ore exploring their jackpot lithium property, NNE of Thunder Bay. Ardiden Ltd. is also exploring the area along their Seymour Lake Deposit.
PEAs created by several companies exploring the area have identified potential deposits and a localized concentrator has the potential to offer smaller operations more options towards creating mineable economic lithium deposits, with less startup costs.

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Mining Life & Exploration News - January Issue


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