World-class lithium connects Thunder Bay

In recent days, Ontario’s emerging critical mineral opportunities have been a hot topic across the Province. The Ministry of Energy, Northern Development, and Mines, led by Mines Minister Greg Rickford, recently announced their first-ever critical mineral strategy to be released this fall. (A discussion paper, to initiate the process, was presented March 10th by Minister Rickford , a culmination of a one year review by an industry/government led Task Force for the Minister) The theme of critical minerals was also one of the main discussion topics at last week’s global Prospectors and Developers Association (PDAC) conference. Federal government, provincial government, and industry technical talks emphasized the need for sourcing critical minerals, and chemical processing, due to the growing global demand for Electric Vehicles (EV) and battery storage industries.

So what does this mean for Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario?

In alignment with the Province’s recent announcements, the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) anticipates seeing greater advancements and economic opportunities for Thunder Bay and Ontario’s critical mineral sector. In CEDC’s recently published 2020 Mining Readiness Strategy, six operating mines and fifteen major exploration projects were studied in Northwestern Ontario. Eight of the fifteen exploration projects involve critical mineral deposits. 

Northwestern Ontario’s advanced critical mineral exploration sites, which focus on lithium, graphite, copper, chromite, and platinum group metals (palladium/platinum), provide the region the opportunity to become a leading jurisdiction in critical mineral production. Lead by three world-class lithium deposits, held by Rock Tech Lithium, Avalon Advanced Material and Frontier Lithium, Thunder Bay, and Northwestern Ontario are positioned to capitalize on significant regional economic development.

“Thunder Bay is being looked at by many mining companies as a hub for their offices, workforce, and supply chain needs,” says John Mason, Mining Services, Project Manager for the Thunder Bay CEDC. “The opportunities for the City are tremendous, our transportation hub and already established seasoned mining services and supply businesses provide huge support to the mining and exploration industry. New opportunities are arising due to our proximity to some of the largest lithium deposits in Ontario. Some companies are looking at Thunder Bay as a chemical processing hub, which could mean a $400 million investment and the creation of 100+ permanent jobs.”

Critical minerals like lithium and graphite require the processing of the raw mined material to create a useable product, presenting an opportunity for Northwestern Ontario to become a leader in the chemical processing and conversion of critical minerals to provide products for clean technologies such as batteries for electric vehicles and large scale electrical grid energy storage.

“The opportunity for Thunder Bay to become a processing hub allows the City to become a part of the provincial vision,” says Eric Zakrewski, Chief Executive Officer, for the Thunder Bay CEDC. “There have been some major investments by both the Federal and Provincial governments and the “Big Three” automobile manufacturers to help grow a greener auto sector in Ontario. Thunder Bay has the opportunity to become a part of the provincial supply chain by supplying lithium sulfate for battery elements that can be used in EV technology. We are currently working with proponents to ensure Thunder Bay is top of mind when considering the processing plant location.”

 In late 2020, multiple government funding initiatives were announced that support the development of critical minerals and speak to the supply chain, including $590 million from the Ontario and Federal government earmarked to build electric vehicles at Ford’s Oakville plant, representing a commitment to clean technology. Government and auto industry financial commitments now sit at over $5B for EV auto assembly in Ontario

Helpful links

Minister Rickford’s announcement –

Chemical processing announcement –

Government funding announcement –

Lithium Companies in the Northwest

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