The federal government is investing $10 million in two electric vehicle (EV) battery recycling companies in Ontario to accelerate the development of technologies for recovering critical minerals needed for a rapidly-expanding EV supply chain.

Major international auto manufacturers and battery-makers have announced billions of dollars in planned EV-linked investments in Canada, raising questions about the domestic supply of key critical minerals and metals such as cobalt, lithium, nickel, copper and platinum for battery production.

The two Sudbury, Ont.-based companies – Electra Battery Materials and Mining Innovation Rehabilitation and Applied Research (MIRARCO) – will receive $5 million each to help finance the development of new technologies designed to extract metals from the “black mass” of shredded flat batteries.

"Today’s investments [in] Electra and MIRARCO will help to advance the development of dynamic and competitive critical minerals value chains in Canada and Northern Ontario," Canada's Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson said in a statement.

Ottawa is betting on Ontario becoming a global battery metals hub for the EV battery and wider energy storage markets, given it is home to the world’s largest integrated mining industrial complex and second-largest nickel deposit near Sudbury.

"The increasing demand for critical minerals and the products made from them provides Nickel Belt – Greater Sudbury with another opportunity to highlight its industrial diversification, high-quality work force and sustainable development capabilities," said Marc Serré, MP for Nickel Belt.

Electra will use the funds for the next phase of what is currently North America’s only battery-grade cobalt refinery and recycling facility in Temiskaming Shores, building on a demonstration project launched there in 2023.

'Black mass' is the industry term for shredded lithium-ion batteries and their casings from which lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, copper, and graphite be recovered for recycling in new batteries. Photograph: Electra Batteries Materials

"Recycling of battery materials will become more critical as the EV industry expands,” said Electra CEO Trent Mell, adding that its facility recycles metals from the black mass of spent batteries and could offer such a service to the many gigafactories that are setting up in Ontario.

“We recognize the time is now to invest in critical minerals. It’s about seizing this time of change and opportunity to create a prosperous economy for all," said Viviane Lapointe, MP for Sudbury. #EVs #Mining #canpoli

MIRARCO will put its funding towards a facility to recover battery metals from the Vale and Glencore mines near Sudbury, while "reducing the long-term social and environmental costs associated with mine waste", said MIRARCO CEO Nadia Mykytczuk.

The two recyclers join nearly 130 companies linked to mining projects under construction or planned over the next 10 years in Canada, representing a combined value of $93.5 billion, according to Natural Resources Canada’s Major Projects Inventory.

The latest funding is part of the government’s $47.7 million Critical Minerals Research, Development and Demonstration program, which aims to support progress on innovative processing technologies for the critical minerals industry, and is part of Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy.

“We recognize the time is now to invest in critical minerals. It’s about seizing this time of change and opportunity to create a prosperous economy for all," said Viviane Lapointe, MP for Sudbury.

"With these investments in MIRARCO and Electra, we are ensuring Canada remains a global leader in resource extraction and paves the way as we transition to a clean economy.”

According to a recent ranking by analyst group BloombergNEF, Canada has overtaken China for the top spot in its annual assessment of 30 countries in the frame to build sustainable lithium-ion battery supply chains.

Government figures show mining and related industries already contribute around $100 billion a year to Canada’s GDP.

"Northern Ontario is uniquely well positioned to seize this opportunity and become a key player as the shift to electric vehicles and other technology requiring nickel and other critical minerals grows," said a statement from the ministry.

Keep reading

Battery recycling if extremely important. So is replacing troublesome materials like cobalt and nickel in new batteries, and lowering the lithium content.

Sodium and silicon have just appeared in battery tech and are very promising, mainly because they are more stable, have better cold weather performance and are hugely abundant and cheap. They are also readily scalable to the grid, which will be more important than batteries for transportation, though EVs will have a direct replacement effect on the demand for petrol.