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Nipigon-area lithium digger scouting for North American refinery site

Rock Tech Lithium considering Ontario, northern U.S. to place lithium hydroxide conversion plant

Rock Tech Lithium, a future mine builder in the Lake Nipigon area, is scouting locations in Ontario and the northern U.S. to site a lithium processing plant.

The company, with both Canadian and German ties, has already broken ground on its first lithium refinery in Guben, Germany, and is now planning for its second facility for North America.

On its plans for a second plant, Rock Tech hinted this week on its LinkedIn account – after meeting with provincial Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli at a conference in Munich – that news is coming, pertaining to its “home market in Ontario,” where its Georgia Lake lithium property is located. 

Rock Tech has been drilling to expand the size of a 14.8-million-tonne lithium resource at its Georgia Lake Project, located 17 kilometres south of Beardmore and 145 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay. 

The initial mine life will be nine years, operating as both an open-pit and underground mine. But Rock Tech’s mining team believes there more lithium to be found to extend its longevity. The project moves into the mine construction stage sometime in 2024.

Rock Tech’s long-standing plan has been to ship Georgia Lake-mined lithium overseas to Germany for conversion into lithium hydroxide, a material used by battery manufacturers in the electric vehicle sector.

Previously, Rock Tech had regarded the consumer demand for electric vehicles to be more advanced in Europe than North America, and that’s where its new few conversion plants were to be constructed.

But the introduction of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has changed the company’s tune.

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All the U.S. government subsidies available for green tech industries that come with the IRA “has increased the attractiveness of the North American EV and battery market,” the company said in a release this summer.

With the Guben lithium refinery in the early stages of construction, Rock Tech said its attention is shifting toward the planning and site selection of its second plant to be located in the U.S. or Ontario.

Rock Tech said in a July release that both the Georgia Lake project and the Guben plant were “attracting significant interest from global investors looking to acquire a direct stake.”

Negotiations were taking place with major companies engaged in the lithium, battery manufacturing and automotive sectors to form strategic partnerships, the company said. Those discussions were expected to be finalized in the upcoming weeks.

Two other lithium companies in the region, Avalon Advanced Materials and Green Technology Metals, intend to place lithium conversion plants in Thunder Bay. Avalon has announced the selection of a site in the city, Green Tech has not. 

Three years ago, Rock Tech was in on a joint venture partnership with Avalon to refine Georgia Lake concentrate in Thunder Bay, but later opted out of that arrangement to take the chemical processing abroad.