General Motors is courting potential mining partners for its new battery-materials plant in Bécancour, Que., as it works through early benchmarks such as land acquisition and permitting for the $500-million site.
David Paterson, vice-president of corporate and environmental affairs at GM Canada, said its parent company is in talks with “lots” of suppliers for key raw materials, but declined to provide details.
The automaker announced in March a joint venture with Posco Chemical to open the new cathode active materials (CAM) plant in the city midway between Montreal and Quebec City in early 2025. Along with returning GM manufacturing to Quebec 20 years after the closure of its Sainte-Thérèse Assembly plant in the Montreal suburbs, the site will establish a new link in GM’s electric vehicle battery supply chain.
“We know we have plenty of really great sources of lithium and nickel and all kinds of things that we need in North America,” said Paterson. We need to process them here too, and that middle stage is really what we’re working towards [in Bécancour].”
The initial planning steps are “on schedule,” such as lining up local engineering and construction, said Paterson, but he declined further comment.
To produce CAM, metals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese are combined into a blend ready to be integrated into battery cells.
‘PRETTY INNOVATIVE VILLAGE’
“It’s not just the CAM plant that GM and Posco have announced there, you have some of the most innovative developers of cobalt, you’ve got some of the most innovative developers of lithium … It takes a village, and in this case, it’s a pretty innovative village.”
Resource companies looking to establish processing plants in Bécancour include home-grown startups and those with international footprints.
Brazil-based mining giant Vale completed a pre-feasibility study into a nickel sulfate plant in Bécancour in June. Quebec-based Nemaska Lithium — partially owned by GM supplier Livent — is planning a similar processing site in the city that will produce lithium hydroxide. Ontario-based Electra Battery Materials, which is currently recommissioning a cobalt refinery in North Ontario, is eyeing Bécancour for a second cobalt processing plant.
As with Electra’s current facility in Ontario, other mines and processing plants at various stages of development across Canada could also feed GM’s CAM production plant.
GM will have a “great long list of needs” as the EV market develops, Paterson said, and the automaker is working to source from within North America wherever possible.
“We have the minerals, we just need to go through the process, do it in a way that’s sustainable and scalable as well.”
GM said July 26 it had locked in deals with battery materials suppliers that will give it the capacity to build up to one million EVs by the end 2025.