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Wyloo aims to sate nickel demand for EV batteries with Ring of Fire mine

Eagle's Nest processing facility, mine in Sudbury scheduled for operations in 2030

From left, Larry Roque, Wahnapitae First Nations Chief; Craig Noochtai, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Gimaa; Paul Lefebvre, Greater Sudbury's mayor; and Kristan Straub, Wyloo Canada's CEO. (Courtesy City of Greater Sudbury)

Wyloo, an Australian mining company with a Toronto office, has signed an agreement for a battery materials facility in Sudbury, Ont. that is designed to help meet demand for Canada’s electric vehicle (EV) battery supply chain.

Nickel ore and concentrate is expected to be sourced from Wyloo’s proposed Eagle’s Nest mine in Northern Ontario, third-party feed and recycled battery materials to make low-carbon nickel sulphate and precursor cathode active material (pCAM).

At Eagle’s Nest, approximately 15,000 tonnes of nickel in nickel concentrate per year is expected to be extracted, alongside 6,000 tonnes of copper.

Operations for the mine and facility are targeted for 2030, depending on local acceptance and permitting of the roads, mine and facility, Kristan Straub, the CEO of Wyloo Canada, told Sustainable Biz Canada in an interview.

“Our intention is to position our company as being one of those groups who is positioned to become a source of supply for those battery electric vehicle plants,” he said.

From Eagle’s Nest to a refinery

The Eagle’s Nest deposit is one of the largest high-grade nickel deposits that remains under-developed, he said. Approximately one million tonnes of ore will be mined on site, then refined at the surface to produce 15,000 tonnes of nickel concentrate. The mine is expected to operate for 12 years, with the option of an eight-year extension.

It will serve as the primary source of nickel concentrate for the Sudbury facility. Similar to the company's approach in Australia, Indigenous relationships will be prioritized for guaranteed employment, contracting, and commitments for trading opportunities and business development.

The Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations will have a hand in the environmental assessment and management for the project.

Greener mining techniques will be key to Eagle’s Nest, Straub explained, and Wyloo has set a net-zero operations goal. The mine’s footprint will be about one square kilometre. All of the tailings will be stored underground instead of at the surface, as per Indigenous requests, to minimize pollution. A battery EV and hydrogen fleet will be used, rather than diesel-powered vehicles. The power supply for the mine will be renewable energy and/or biomass sourced from local First Nations.

For the mine, environmental studies and planning is scheduled to take place in 2024, followed by permitting in 2025, construction in 2027 and production to start in 2030.

Once the hundreds of kilometres of roads linking the mine to an infrastructure corridor are complete, the nickel concentrate from the mine will flow to Sudbury, where Wyloo has signed a memorandum of understanding with the city’s government to secure the land for the battery materials facility.

Tapping into Sudbury’s nickel knowledge

Described by Straub as the first planned facility in Canada to pair nickel sulphate and pCAM production, the battery materials facility’s price tag is estimated between $800 million and $900 million. The size of the facility will be determined as part of a scoping study.

There, up to 50,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate and pCAM, which would be enough to produce over 800,000 EVs per year, will be produced at the Sudbury plant, according to current plans, using raw materials from Eagle’s Nest and other sources. The scoping study will aim to narrow down those locations.

Such production capacity meets 50 per cent of the nickel demand from Ontario's announced EV investments, Straub said in a release.

Sudbury, a city famed for its history of nickel mining, was chosen because of its populace’s knowledge and skills.

“There are not many places in the world where nickel is produced and where the expertise for nickel production lies,” Straub said.

The city hosts nickel producers Glencore and Vale Canada, has a “large, well-developed workforce” and maintains relevant educational and research institutions, he added.

Straub also notes the billions of dollars in tax credits for EV battery manufacturing being spent in Ontario that will require a secure supply of metals.

No customer has been secured yet, but Wyloo expects the gap to be filled quickly by North American battery companies because most do not have sufficient nickel supply. Ninety per cent of companies’ production today does not have supply assigned in North America, Straub said.

The next step for Wyloo is environmental assessments with local First Nations for Eagle’s Nest’s roads. If permission is granted, then Wyloo will prepare to construct assets at Eagle’s Nest and engage with the First Nations on details such as benefits agreements and permitting.

About Wyloo

Wyloo is owned by Australian private equity company Tattarang, a firm owned by billionaires Andrew and Nicola Forrest.

Tattarang has made a series of investments and acquisitions into clean energy, including renewable energy company Squadron.

Sustainable mining is Wyloo’s focus, from its efforts to reduce its carbon emissions from mines, manage water and prioritizing metals such as nickel that play a part in decarbonizing transportation.

Its projects include two nickel mines in the western Australian town of Kambalda, an integrated battery materials facility that will produce pCAM in Kwinana, Western Australia, and its Blackbird chromite deposit that is less than one kilometre away from Eagle’s Nest.

Editor's note: Wyloo was erroneously referred to as Wyloo Metals. The First Nations involved in the environmental assessment and management are the Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations, not the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek and Wahnapitae First Nations. Sustainable Biz Canada regrets the errors.

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