Mercedes-Benz is signing a supply deal with a Nipigon-area mine builder to provide lithium needed to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles.
Vancouver-based Rock Tech Lithium announced it intends to enter into agreement with the German luxury car maker to provide up to 10,000 tonnes of processed lithium hydroxide annually over a five-year period, starting in 2026.
The Canadian-German mining company delivered the news on Aug. 23 amid much fanfare of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to Canada.
Rock Tech owns the Georgia Lake Lithium Project, located 17 kilometres south of the town of Beardmore and 145 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.
The lithium will be mined in northwestern Ontario, then shipped to Germany where Rock Tech will make lithium hydroxide at a refinery it plans to build in the eastern part of that country. This year, Rock Tech has been busy lining up supply deals with other European interests in the battery electric vehicle space.
The company said it plans to start construction for a US$102-million mine with an on-site crushing and concentrator plant in the second half of 2023, according to its project timelines. Mining operations will begin in late 2024.
The refining of Georgia Lake lithium concentrate into lithium hydroxide takes place in Guben, Germany at the end of 2024.
Rock Tech originally intended to refine the concentrate in Thunder Bay, but later opted to pull out of a plant partnership arrangement with Avalon Advanced Materials in order to take the chemical processing to Europe, where they consider the electric vehicle sales market more advanced than in North America.
This “strategic partnership” becomes official once the car company and its battery manufacturing partners do their due diligence with Rock Tech to ensure certain quality and sustainability benchmarks are met.
Chancellor Scholz is in Canada, as part of a business delegation to Toronto, to sign partnership agreements between Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and the Canadian government to establish a cross-Atlantic supply chain for electric vehicle production. Mercedes-Benz has said all of its car production will be fully electric by the end of this decade.
In the release, Markus Schaefer, the chief technology officer for Mercedes-Benz, said scaling up electric vehicle production means securing a reliable source of raw materials.
“With the Rock Tech partnership, we intend to take a direct sourcing approach to secure the lithium supply for Mercedes-Benz battery production.”
In a statement, Rock Tech CEO Markus Bruegmann said the Mercedes-Benz partnership will “set new standards in sustainable supply chains. We are very pleased to have found a partner that intends to take important steps with us towards a more resilient and sustainable lithium supply chain to deliver an important part of their strategy and of the e-mobility transformation.”