Electra Battery Materials is putting up the 'Help Wanted' sign to build a workforce around its refurbished refinery and proposed battery materials park in Temiskaming.
The Toronto-headquartered company is looking to fill the ranks with skilled people to work on the ground floor of a new value-added industry in Northern Ontario.
Electra is the early stages of building a one-of-a-kind chemical processing plant that will be feeding the North American electric vehicle car plants and their battery makers with processed material. Construction is underway on a new building addition at the site between the towns of Cobalt and Haileybury (City of Temiskaming Shores).
The company recently posted a laundry list of coordinator, supervisory, engineering and skilled trade positions for the once-mothballed refinery's return to production later this year. Some are needed now, some in the near future. Job applications are only being accepted online.
Shayna LaCarte, Electra’s human resources and office coordinator, said they’re looking to boost their current workforce of 10 to 50 employees by year’s end.
The refinery goes into commercial production this December, just after the first shipment of cobalt hydroxide arrives from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The hope is to fill those posted positions “sooner than later,” she said, as they ramp into the commissioning process in the months ahead.
Over the next four years, Electra aims to build North America’s first battery materials industrial park, converting imported cobalt and nickel into battery-grade material for the major electric vehicle carmakers and their supply chains. There will also be a battery recycling component to the plant, starting a year from now. The company has 600 acres of permitted property to work with.
Electra said it will announce product off-take agreements with buyers of their material over the next few months.
The company has an aggressive timeline to built out the battery park by 2026 and expects 200 to 300 people on the payroll by then.
Beyond the 50 coming aboard this year, LaCarte said the workforce will grow as the plant grows, possibly doubling to 100 sometime next year.
LaCarte said they’re committed to hiring local as much as possible but in this mainly rural area of northeastern Ontario there are recruiting challenges in finding those with certain expertise and experience. That’s why the company is advertising in North Bay, Timmins and Sudbury, and seems to be drawing interest.
“We do have many interested in moving to the area for these opportunities," she said.
Ninety per cent of their needs are for specifically skilled positions, however there are opportunities for young people in the beginning stages of employment.
Electra is also working with five area First Nations to have five to 10 per cent of their workforce as Indigenous. Training and development funds are being set aside to meet that commitment, she said.
For those contemplating making the move to Temiskaming, LaCarte said the company does not have any worker and family accommodations in place at this time. As they continue to hire, they may make arrangements for rental properties and long-term stay options at local hotels.
The company is hoping to stir interest with area retirees who once worked in mining processing and maybe lure younger folks tired of the hour-long commute up Highway 11 to mine sites in Matachewan and Kirkland Lake.
The chance to snag a good-paying job only minutes from home is often a frequent response from interviewees, LaCarte said.
“The shorter commute is a huge perk for these candidates.”
Many in the region have followed Electra's progress since its arrival on the scene five years ago (then known as First Cobalt) and its switch from a cobalt exploration outfit to a pending chemical processor of battery minerals.
LaCarte acknowledged Electra has generated much excitement in Temiskaming for bringing a shuttered refinery back to life.
LaCarte, who hails from nearby Englehart and previously worked for five years as an HR generalist in Fort McMurray, said when she updated her employment status on her LinkedIn account in February, she was inundated with employment queries about opportunities with the company.
Having grown up in the area with plenty of connections, LaCarte said she’s been fielding inquiries daily, while others are requesting site tours.
“Actually, nine of the 10 of us here are from the area, so everyone knows someone who knows someone who is interested,” she said. “There’s lots of excitement in the air, that's for sure.”