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Rock Tech Lithium pockets permit for refinery in Germany

Guben plant will be 'blueprint' for second converter plant in Red Rock
Ground stability tests being performed at Rock Tech Lithium's Guben, Germany construction site in 2023.

A leading lithium developer in northwestern Ontario has received official approval to press on with building Europe’s first lithium processing plant in Germany.

Rock Tech Lithium said it’s received construction and operational permits for a refinery in Guben, a town on the border with Poland.

In a May 31 news release, Rock Tech is calling this a milestone moment both for the company and the German battery value chain. The occasion was marked with a permit ceremony in Potsdam attended by Brandenburg state officials and various government dignitaries.

The start of construction has yet to be determined. 

In a statement, Rock Tech CEO Dirk Harbecke said the permits provide them with some validation and the impetus to chase down that last bit of project financing from lenders.

“The permits not only allow us to now move into the last stage of financing for the project, but they are also proof that our concept works and the Guben converter will serve as the blueprint for our other refinery projects worldwide,” he said.

“We expect to finalize subsidy negotiations and equity term sheets with strategic partners soon. The credit approval process with our banking partners will follow shortly after and we aim to take the final investment decision (FID) in Q3 this year."

But the feed for the Guben refinery will not come from Rock Tech’s Georgia Lake lithium deposit near Lake Nipigon but through international brokers.

In April, Rock Tech inked a feedstock agreement with C&D Logistics, a major mover in the lithium space with connections to spodumene mines in Australia, Africa and Brazil. Rock Tech has already signed off-take agreements with major automakers. 

There are separate plans to construct a second refinery in Red Rock to accept material from its Georgia Lake spodumene project, a future mine situated 17 kilometres south of Beardmore and 145 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

Last spring, Rock Tech signed a long-term lease with its development partners, BMI Group, to secure a site at a former paper mill in Red Rock, on the north shore of Lake Superior. The groundbreaking will take place sometime in 2025.

The mined material will be transported from Georgia Lake, 60 kilometres to the north, down Highway 11.

The spodumene — a widely used and preferred rock because of its high lithium content — will be crushed into a concentrate and trucked to Red Rock. There, the material will be converted into a a battery-grade material, such as lithium hydroxide, that’s in demand in the electric vehicle market.

Rock Tech is billing the Red Rock site as a regional hub processing site that would source lithium from other mines in the region and possibly raw material as a recycler of discarded batteries.