Battery metals supply chain presents significant opportunity for Canadian industry, says new BMAC report

Surging demand for lithium-ion batteries to power electric vehicles (EVs) and for energy storage applications could drive major economic growth across Canada, says a new report from the Battery Metals Association of Canada (BMAC).

The BMAC report, entitled Maximizing Canada’s Battery Metals Sector, looks at how Canada can build a thriving “mines to mobility” supply chain to capture this growing opportunity.

Based on a virtual workshop held in late March that brought together leaders from all segments of the battery metals supply chain, the report examines current and potential markets in mining, chemical production, battery components, battery cell manufacturing, end-use applications, and recycling. It also presents views from workshop participants on the barriers to growing each segment of the supply chain, along with potential solution pathways to overcome these barriers.

Demand for production from all segments of the supply chain is expected to grow exponentially, according to the World Economic Forum. Raw material demand for critical metals is expected to grow by a factor of 6-24 by 2030 depending on the metal. Demand for refining and processing is expected to grow 14-fold in the same period. The battery components market is expected to expand 15- fold, with cell production growing 19-fold. Recycling capacities will increase by a factor of more than 25.

The growth in demand across the supply chain has the potential to create annual revenues of $300 billion in 2030, an eight-fold increase from today.

Canada has all the necessary ingredients to capture a share of this market, according to the BMAC report.

Canada is a global leader in mining and has resources of all key critical minerals. Some of the major challenges to build out supply include the often-remote locations of new resources, long exploration and development lead-times, access to capital, and regulatory challenges.

The country is already a leader in refined nickel production and is working to increase its capacity for cobalt, graphite, lithium, and other rare earth element processing with plants in the planning stage. These facilities will be able to directly supply cathode and anode manufacturers as the next value-added stage of the battery supply chain.

Asia currently dominates the battery cell manufacturing space with nearly 80% of the global manufacturing capacity. However, Canada has made recent advances in cell manufacturing. Lion Electric, a manufacturer of all-electric trucks and buses, is currently building a $185 million battery manufacturing plant and innovation center in Quebec that will allow the electrification of approximately 14,000 medium and heavy-duty vehicles annually.

GM, Ford Motors and Fiat Chrysler have all committed to building EVs in Canada, with the sum of their announced investments totaling $5.75 billion. It also has several domestic EV manufacturers.

Canada also has numerous companies engaged in battery recycling. Li-cycle is ramping up to build the largest lithium-ion battery recycling plant in North America with a network of hubs to increase capacity to serve North American, European and Asian markets.

Building on this technology base across the supply chain is going to require lots of expertise, says Jim Parsons, VP of Business Development for Spartan Controls, a sponsor of the BMAC workshop and report. Spartan has a long history as a supplier of technology solutions to the oil and gas industry. Parsons says it can play a similar role in helping move the battery metals sector forward.

“We joined BMAC because battery metals are critical to decarbonizing.  Accelerating growth and success in this nascent Canadian industry will require partners who can bring modern, sustainable capabilities and expertise,” he says. “It wasn’t long ago when a new type, of energy production growth took off in Alberta; we supported emerging companies commercializing operations then, and we feel a responsibility to bring that expertise to this important new industry.”

Caralyn Bennett, executive vice-president and chief strategy officer of GLJ Ltd., shares this perspective. GLJ Ltd. provides a variety of technical information and consulting services to help the oil and gas and mining sectors identify and evaluate opportunities, improve business strategies, and attract sustained investment. Bennett says GLJ plans on working with the battery metals sector to speed its development and ensure it competitiveness.

“GLJ is excited to be part of the grassroots development of the Canadian battery metals industry,” she says. “Canada’s prolific natural resources and talented workforce position all of us for success. We look forward to working with our clients to de-risk their resource assessments and feasibility studies, aimed at accelerating their path to success.”

BMAC will build upon workshop results to help amplify and connect voices across the Canadian supply chain and to advance a vision for the battery metals industry, from mining to end use and recycling.

Sponsors of the workshop were: E3 Metals, Fluor Canada, GLJ Inc., Matrix Solutions, McCarthy Tétrault, and Spartan Controls.

Download the report here.

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