Manitoba lithium company looks to become continental EV battery supply chain player
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Feb 16, 2022
Kate Haycock

Mining hopeful Snow Lake Resources is years away from producing lithium from its Manitoba project, but the company is already looking for potential partners to develop an integrated North American supply chain

Snow Lake Resources anticipates opening its all-electric operation in Manitoba.

Mining hopeful Snow Lake Resources is years away from producing lithium from its Manitoba project, but the company is already looking for potential partners to develop an integrated North American supply chain

Ahead of rapidly growing electric vehicle demand in the next decade, Winnipeg-based Snow Lake Resources Ltd. (doing business as Snow Lake Lithium) is courting North America’s automotive industry with promises of a green, all-electric mining and refining operation offering a secure and local supply of lithium hydroxide.

Snow Lake, which completed a US$27.6-million initial public offering on the Nasdaq late last year, has an existing resource of 11.1 million metric tonnes of indicated and inferred resources at one per cent lithium oxide at a site located around 600 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

The company, whose controlling shareholder is Nova Minerals Ltd. of Australia, is currently drilling and mapping the deposit — dubbing the project Thompson Brothers Lithium Project — to firm up this resource base, which will need to be converted to measured resources ahead of any potential mine development.

The company’s initial metallurgical test-work suggested the deposit could support a mine producing approximately 160,000 tonnes of six per cent lithium ore concentrate per annum, over eight to 10 years. This ore would be transported via rail to a site in Southern Manitoba where Snow Lake is planning to build its own integrated lithium hydroxide plant, potentially in partnership with other mining operations in the area, Gross said.

Lithium needs for a changing world

While it is early days for the project, Snow Lake’s chief executive officer Philip Gross said in a corporate presentation last week that the company planned to begin mining and lithium production by 2025 — at the latest.

In the meantime the company is also looking for North American automative partners to develop its refining plant.

“At this stage we are looking to integrate that with an actual OEM, whether that’s a battery or automobile manufacturer, so we can [joint venture] with them from mine to the car in a seamless supply chain,” he said, as first reported by Electrek.

“That will then create the first integrated producer in North America with completely green credentials, with 98% renewable energy… We would be almost a one-stop solution for an automobile manufacturer for their supply chain.”

With the International Energy Agency forecasting global lithium demand to increase from 47.3 kilotonnes per annum (ktpa) in 2020 to 117.4 ktpa in 2024 and then 185 ktpa by 2030, a secure lithium supply has been identified as a critical infrastructure supply need by the United States government. Just last week the Biden Administration announced a US$2.91-billion investment in domestic lithium battery manufacture and recycling.

Gross said, however, there simply was not enough supply being developed globally to meet this need.

“We’re looking at a generational demand curve change…the greatest industrial pivot in a century,” he said.

Manitoba’s advantages

Gross said that Manitoba provides secure access to North American automotive markets via a developed railway system, which also offers the smallest possible carbon footprint in terms of logistics and infrastructure.

“We can be from our project to Detroit in a day and a half,” he said.

Crucially, Manitoba also offers also a secure, green energy supply from hydroelectric power generation, which will be critical if Snow Lake is to meet its goal of becoming the world’s first electrified lithium mine and the first lithium mine to achieve B Corporation status. This would also help North American manufacturers reduce what are known as Scope 3 emissions coming from the vehicle materials and production.

To that end, Snow Lake has partnered with Quebec-based mining equipment and engineering firm Meglab to provide full mine electrification.

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