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Canadian companies cement plans for lithium refinery in northern Ontario

Rock Tech Lithium Inc. and BMI Group have concluded arrangements to transform a former paper mill in northern Ontario into a lithium refinery, following an extensive search across North America for a suitable site.

The refinery will be situated on a roughly 50-acre parcel in Red Rock, Ont., capable of processing 36,000 tonnes of lithium at full capacity. According to Konstantin Deichsel, Rock Tech’s head of strategy and business innovation, a portion of the ore will be supplied from the company’s own mine.

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“We are quite proud that we are bringing back industry to the area with a process that is much greener, that has a much brighter outlook into the future because if we want to decarbonize the global economy, we’re gonna need lithium in one way or shape or the other for decades, if not centuries to come,” Deichsel said in an interview with Sustainable Biz Canada.

The project marks a significant investment by Tillsonburg, Ont.-based BMI, which will inject $5.5 million into the venture, situated approximately 110 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, near the shores of Nipigon Bay.

Rock Tech, headquartered in Toronto but led predominantly by German executives, has shifted its focus from minerals exploration to lithium mining and refining under the leadership of CEO Dirk Harbecke. The company identified the bottleneck in the lithium supply chain as a conversion problem and is addressing it by constructing a refinery in Guben, Germany, with plans to produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide by 2026.

The Red Rock project is Rock Tech’s second publicized endeavor and will draw on the company’s experience from Germany. The proximity of the Red Rock site to Rock Tech’s Georgia Lake lithium mine positions it as a key asset, supplying a significant portion of the feedstock for the refinery.

BMI’s investment will facilitate the redevelopment of the rail network and port, as well as upgrade power lines to meet Red Rock’s requirements. Rock Tech anticipates creating around 200 permanent jobs at Red Rock and up to 1,000 construction jobs.

The company expects to raise $30 million to $40 million by the end of 2025 to prepare for industrial-scale funding deployment, following engineering studies to determine shovel readiness.

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