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Sudbury Steelworkers support Vale-GM nickel supply deal

Canadian-mined nickel will go into General Motors electric vehicles beginning in 2026
(Vale photo)

Last week’s nickel sulfate supply deal between Vale and General Motors (GM) is being welcomed by the United Steelworkers (USW) union in Sudbury.

USW 6500 issued a news release supporting the signing of a term sheet that will see nickel mined from Canadian operations in Sudbury, Voisey’s Bay, N.L. and Thompson, Man. will head to Vale’s proposed nickel processing plant in Bécancour, Que. 

“Steelworkers are vital members of the communities we live in. As a union, we strive to support and give back to our communities and this is made possible when our jobs are supported,” said Nick Larochelle, USW Local 6500 president, in the release. Local 6500 represents 2,700 mine, mill and smelter workers in Sudbury.

“I am thrilled this contract between Vale and General Motors supports and protects good local union jobs as well as creating new jobs at the same time. I am confident that our members are up to the challenge and will deliver,” added Myles Sullivan, District 6 director (Ontario and Atlantic Canada) in a statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, Vale will supply 25,000 tonnes of battery-grade nickel sulfate a year to use in GM’s Ultium battery cathodes, which will go into the likes of electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Silverado, Blazer, Equinox, Cadillac LYRIQ, GMC Sierra and the GMC Hummer and SUV, according to GM news release last week. This amount of nickel will supply about 350,000 electric vehicles annually. 

Deliveries are targeted to begin the second half of 2026, according to GM. 

Nickel is one of the critical metals used in the manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles.

The GM-Vale supply agreement is part of a growing North American ‘on-shoring’ movement by car companies and battery manufacturers to secure domestic supply chains, sometimes by striking off-take agreements directly with the mining companies. Rock Tech Lithium, owners of a lithium mine project in northwestern Ontario, struck a supply deal with Mercedes-Benz last summer

Bécancour, a town of about 12,800 between Montreal and Quebec City, is being called ‘Lithium Battery Valley' with its growing industrial park geared to supplying the automakers with the advanced materials needed for electric vehicles.

Brazilian-based Vale SA announced in June it intends to build a nickel sulphate facility there that would produce 25,000 tonnes of this processed material needed in the making of nickel-based lithium-ion batteries.

Possibly joining them in Bécancour is Electra Battery Materials. The Toronto company, which is renovating and expanding a refinery in Temiskaming to start cobalt production next spring, is considering establishing a second refinery in Bécancour on the invitation of the Quebec government.