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Battery recycling adds juice to Avalon’s Thunder Bay lithium plans

Lithium junior miner colours in the details of its proposed processing and technology park
Avalon Advanced Materials Separation Rapids Project (Company photo)

Recycling the valuable metals from waste batteries has entered into the plans for Avalon Advanced Materials, a potential lithium plant developer in Thunder Bay.

The Toronto company released details this week on the joint venture partnership deal it signed with Metso of Finland, a leading European provider of clean mining processing technology. 

In an Oct. 19 news release, Avalon mentioned it’s added a battery recycling element and the “refining of battery chemicals for recycle use” to its grander vision of creating an industrial and research park at its chosen site in Thunder Bay’s north end. 

Avalon said it’s entered into an “expanded partnership agreement” with Metso, a development partner with which it signed a memorandum of understanding last July. 

Metso is its technology partner in the operation of the proposed refinery, which would handle feed from Avalon’s Separation Rapids deposit near Kenora.

A recycling operation could rival Electra Battery Materials operation in northeastern Ontario. Electra is well underway on the battery recycling front in running ‘black mass’ trials at a refinery its renovating near Temiskaming Shores.

The combined number of jobs for Avalon's integrated pit mining operation and a plant in Thunder Bay is said to be 500. The company is aiming for a 2028 refinery startup.

Avalon is pitching the refinery as a clean-tech, non-emitting operation as well as a training ground for post-secondary students. 

The Technology and Innovation Centre would combine processing, recycling. training and research labs in collaboration with Confederation College and Lakehead University. Along with testing and assay labs, the centre would include a full-scale demonstration plant for testing various lithium pegmatite minerals. Metso will provide the training.

In a statement, Avalon President Zeeshan Syed called this agreement the “next step” in building a regional processing hub for other budding lithium projects in the northwest. 

Syed said the “expanded scope of our partnership will create supply chain efficiencies and increase the value of previous investment commitments in the province of Ontario.”

The two companies will put to use an environmentally friendly and proprietary process that uses an alkaline leach process for lithium conversion. This method reduces air emissions compared to conventional lithium processing.

Mikko Rantaharju, Metso’s vice-president of hydrometallurgy, called the partnership a “bold vision” on a “remarkable project” to develop a sustainable battery-grade lithium product.

“This agreement marks yet another key milestone between the parties as we advance forward to build a wide scope of economic benefits for the future.”

Avalon is among a pack of four leading lithium junior miners in northwestern Ontario, alongside Green Technology Metals, Rock Tech Lithium and Frontier Lithium, all jockeying to be first to market in Ontario.