Canada Lithium Corp.
Most of us probably don’t think of lithium when we think about mining. But if you drive a hybrid car or use a mobile phone, you have lithium to thank for it. Lithium is used in everything from glass and ceramic products to batteries in electric and hybrid vehicles, consumer electronic products and rechargeable hand tools. Canada Lithium Corp. is engaged in a project to breathe new life into the Quebec Lithium Mine, an open-pit lithium mine near Val d’Or, Quebec.
Canada Lithium Corp. is a mine developer with its head office in Toronto and additional offices in Montreal, Amos and Val d’Or, as well as trailer offices at the build site. It is working on the construction of an open-pit lithium carbonate mine and processing plant, an undertaking known as the Quebec Lithium Project. Its purpose is to meet the rising needs of an expanding global market for electric and hybrid electric vehicles and grid-storage solutions.
In May 2011, Canada Lithium received a construction permit from the Municipality of La Corne for the construction of surface service infrastructure at its Quebec Lithium Project. Commissioning of the mine and plant is expected in late 2012. Full production of an annualized 20,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate is anticipated for 2013. Thus far, the company has performed metallurgical tests that have produced battery-grade lithium carbonate from deposit samples. The end-game is to market the mine’s products in North America, Europe and Asia.
“The mine operated from 1955 to 1965, and it was an underground mine before we acquired it 2006,” says David Alexander, purchasing manager. “Since that time, we’ve produced a lot of statistical information that indicates a significant mass of lithium still exists within the mine.”
Part of the company’s ability to move forward with its plans has stemmed from its commitment to establishing strong working partnerships. In 2011, Canada Lithium announced that it awarded the engineering, procurement, construction and management (EPCM) contract to GENIVAR, which would be supported by Met-Chem Canada Inc.
GENIVAR has a great deal of expertise with the lithium-ion battery market and has environmental offices in both Val d’Or and Amos, which are near to the Quebec Lithium Project. The company has also performed environmental impact studies for Canada Lithium. Met-Chem is an engineering group that provides mining, mineral processing and engineering services, and its expertise includes the environmental sector and operations management.
“The project is on schedule, and we have weekly meetings and utilize construction and overall schedules that we review weekly to stay on track,” Alexander says. Alexander says the community has been extremely supportive of the project because of the positive economic impact it is having in the area. The once dominant forestry industry is all but dead in the area. In addition, the region has a strong history with gold mining, so Canada Lithium has been able to bring in experienced people and get access to many suppliers.
The company has also had success in securing funding for the project. In fact, Canada Lithium recently announced that the Bank of Nova Scotia and Caterpillar Financial Services had given credit-approved commitments to Canada Lithium to provide a $75-million, five-year debt facility to finance the open pit mine and process plant projects. The debt facility will be supported by a financial guarantee from Investissement Québec, Caterpillar Financial will also provide up to $17 million in lease financing for mobile mining equipment.
The Market Awaits
The company has successfully produced battery-grade lithium carbonate in metallurgical tests of sample material from the Quebec Lithium Project. Initially, the mine will produce spodumene, a low-grade lithium product. The mine is expected to begin producing lithium carbonate by the fourth quarter of 2012 or the first quarter of 2013.
Getting the product to market shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Firstly, the area is well supported by infrastructure. Canada Lithium will have ample access to road, rail and air transportation. As for finding customers, the company has a salesperson who is already hard at work to lay the foundation for the creation of customer relationships on a global scale.
“A lot of companies will come to us, so we won’t have to beat open doors to get access to markets,” Alexander says. “The market will come to us, because lithium isn’t a commodity like copper. It has an open-market pricing structure, and it is a bulk product that is essentially sold on a one-to-one basis.”
Over the course of the next year, Canada Lithium will be wrapped up in ramping up. The project is seemingly a combination of the crude and the clean. On one side of the side is a huge open pit mine. On the other is a high-tech, clean processing laboratory environment.
“We’re doing more than just taking something out of the ground and sending it on its way,” Alexander says. “We will be working to produce a high-grade product that will hopefully be better than what is available to the market.”
Of course, the company has taken its environmental responsibilities to heart, having hired a locally connected individual who handles all of the relevant environmental concerns. At this point, all the permitting and impact studies have been completed, and the project has the green light.
Canada Lithium is adjusting as needed based on the rising price of steel and cost of labor. It is ready to proceed with a project that could very well have a massive impact on the world’s lithium needs. Although the company is looking at other potential mining sites and uses for the processing plant, the Quebec Lithium Project will drive the future of Canada Lithium. Alexander says the future is bright, and it starts with the approximately 15 years of life that is left in what was once a mine that had gone cold. “We’re fortunate to have a mine in a logistically sound, accessible area,” he says. “The people here are familiar with working in mines, and we are ready to get going and grow.”