Avalon begins PEA for Thunder Bay lithium conversion facility

Avalon is working on a PEA to produce both lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate for customers in Ontario. Credit: Avalon Advanced Materials

Avalon Advanced Materials (TSX: AVL) announced that it has engaged DRA Americas, a subsidiary of DRA Global to begin a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for a lithium hydroxide conversion facility in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The project, for which Avalon secured a C$15 million funding deal with creditor Lind Global Fund II, will be administered under Avalon’s wholly owned subsidiary Lake Superior Lithium. The PEA will consider feed sourcing of high-grade lithium concentrates from various sources, and also include lithium concentrate reagent receiving and storage, processing, and site infrastructure as well as shipping and handling of product and byproduct off site.

The facility will feature the environmentally friendly Metso lithium conversion technology, expected to be operational from 2025. The technology is an acid-free lithium conversion approach that eliminates the use of hazardous reagents and produces a byproduct that is a mixture of sand and limestone. The byproduct material can be used to make construction materials.

Last June, Avalon purchased “a crown jewel” brownfield industrial site in the heart of Thunder Bay. The 100%-owned site covers 1.5 sq. km and has direct access to all infrastructure needs, including 80 to 100 MW of electrical power.

The proposed production level of the facility would be based on similarly designed units and is expected to produce around 30,000 tonnes per year of lithium hydroxide, with an operating life of over 20 years. The facility would be designed to produce both lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate.

“The forecasted battery manufacturing capacity is expected to increase over the coming years as world EV and battery utilization becomes more mainstream,” said Avalon CEO Scott Monteith. “The decision to pursue production of battery grade lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate is driven by continued strength in lithium battery demand and North American supply chain needs for high quality product produced in North America.”

Progress with the facility comes as players in the lithium space continue to struggle with lithium prices, which are almost three times lower than the levels of last summer. In June, lithium carbonate traded at 311,363 yuan ($43,022) per tonne, as compared to 111,500 yuan ($15,406) on Tuesday, according to Trading Economics.

Avalon and its joint venture partner SCR-Sibelco NV is developing its Separation Rapids lithium deposit near Kenora, Ontario, while also continuing to advance the Snowbank lithium and Lilypad lithium-cesium projects.