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Lithion Technologies begins construction of Quebec mineral extraction plant

Facility in St-Bruno-de-Montarville will process over 15,000 tonnes of batteries annually

Lithion Technologies' St-Bruno facility. (Courtesy Lithion Technologies)
Lithion Technologies' St-Bruno facility. (Courtesy Lithion Technologies)

Lithion Technologies has begun construction on its first commercial-scale mineral extraction plant in St-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que., a prelude to a projected billion-dollar expansion program for the Montreal-based company.

Strategically located 27 kilometres outside of Montreal to ensure easy battery procurement, the Lithion St-Bruno facility will have the capacity to process over 15,000 tonnes of lithium-ion batteries annually, sourced mainly from electric vehicles (EVs), hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, as well as other non-conforming cell and battery materials. The facility will eventually employ 60 people.

Expected to become operational this fall, the extraction plant has been designed to recycle used batteries by means of a new shredding process developed by Lithion that produces a powdery concentrate described by the company as its signature "black mass" distillate.

Lithion says its shredding process achieves a 98 per cent extraction efficiency of the black mass, which contains vital EV battery elements including lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and graphite.

This concentrate will then be transported to other recycling companies where the black mass will be further refined via pyrometallurgy processes and repurposed into individual component materials for the batteries that power zero-emission EVs. 

Evolution of the St-Bruno plant

The facility is the culmination of five years of intensive R&D work by Lithion at its Quebec pilot facility.

The May announcement the St-Bruno plant will begin producing extracted EV battery minerals at a market level also provided the company with an occasion to rebrand itself from Lithion Recycling to Lithion Technologies, reflective of this inflection point in scaling up its operations.

The St-Bruno project represents the initial stage in Lithion's ambitious plans to become a major player in the North American EV battery supply chain and contribute to making the sector leaner and greener.

Benoit Couture, president and CEO of Lithion Technologies. (Courtesy Lithion Technologies)
Benoît Couture, president and CEO of Lithion Technologies. (Courtesy Lithion Technologies)

It will introduce state-of-the-art shredding technology Lithion has spent several years developing into a "robust system" that is safe, stable and poses no fire hazard or risk of workplace injury.

"Our technology puts us ahead of everyone. We have invested heavily in making sure our technology is not only the best one, but one that fits the needs of the market," Benoît Couture, president and CEO of Lithion, said in an interview with Sustainable Biz Canada.

"By filling that technology gap we are able to close the loop in the circular economy and make true, sustainable choices in the transition to a low-carbon economy. That is exactly the role that we want to play.

"Our technology is capable of extracting and delivering the materials that provide the market with a real sustainable solution. This further serves the strategic goals of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) that have set ambitious targets when it comes to producing carbon neutral vehicles."

Hydrometallurgic extraction facility to break ground in 2026

Construction of the St-Bruno extraction facility marks the first of several projects that are part of Lithion's long-term expansion plans. In 2026, the company intends to break ground on a hydrometallurgy plant to separate the black mass concentrate into component materials to produce battery-grade lithium, cobalt and nickel. 

Instead of applying conventional pyrometallurgy processes that involve the energy intensive, high-temperature burning of batteries to distill and purify component materials, the Lithion hydrometallurgy plant will deploy advanced new hydrometallurgy technology to extract critical battery materials.

"Today, companies are recycling batteries mainly by means of pyrometallurgy, which is the way miners extract and purify material," Couture said. "Lithion's technology will allow all extraction and purification to take place within a single plant, at a single location, here in Quebec."

The projected new vertically-integrated hydrometallurgy plant further allows Lithion to streamline operations by bypassing the need to transport its black mass concentrate for sale to other recyclers.

Once up and running, the facility will allow the company to market its fully reconstituted EV battery component materials directly to a rapidly expanding EV industry expected to see continued steep growth in demand for lithium, copper and related minerals.

Carbon, water use reductions in processing

Lithion's hydrometallurgy process significantly advances the sustainability of the battery recycling sector. The new plant will reduce the carbon footprint of the extraction process by 72 per cent and decrease water consumption by 96 per cent, a major leap toward building a sustainable, circular EV ecosystem.

"We've already accelerated our operations by establishing relationships with global OEMs and cell makers because they understand that we are able to supply the materials that allow them to produce greener new batteries, because the (recycled) materials we are delivering come with a lower carbon footprint.

"We are well positioned to move forward after signing very good contracts that will provide our plants with a secure supply of end-of-life batteries," Couture said. "We have received close to 400 tonnes of batteries that will be processed at our St-Bruno plant and which will serve the Ontario market."

Lithion is currently lining up major investors to provide the capital so it can expand both in North America and in Europe where the company is negotiating to build a new facility.

"This is both a local and a global business, and we're looking to raise north of $1 billion to realize our expansion plans," Couture added.

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