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Lithium processing pilot plant attracts government innovation dollars for Sudbury junior miner

Frontier Lithium has big plans to be supplier to the North American electric vehicle market
Frontier Lithium XPS facility
Frontier Lithium starts operation of a lithium hydroxide mini-pilot plant at XPS Expert Process Solutions in Sudbury (Company photo)

Frontier Lithium, a Sudbury-based junior mining company, has landed $363,000 in provincial funding to be applied toward a proprietary metals extraction process.

The company is collaborating with Glencore's XPS Expert Processing Solutions, a Sudbury industrial R & D lab, on a pilot plant for a refining process which would convert spodumene concentrate, taken from Frontier's exploration property in northwestern Ontario, into lithium hydroxide. This material is prized by electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturers.

Frontier has two spodumene-bearing deposits at its PAK project, 175 kilometres north of Red Lake, near the Manitoba border.  Spodumene is the most widely used lithium because of its high lithium content. 

The company has ambitious plans of becoming an international supplier and processor of this material to the EV market. 

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Last winter, Frontier released a preliminary economic assessment of its PAK project, forecasting a 26-year open-pit mine life with the potential to establish a hydrometallurgical chemical plant at an unidentified Great Lakes port.

The company's tentative start date to begin commercial-scale mining at PAK is 2025.

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According to the government's press release, the company could create 500 construction jobs in building the mine, more than 150 chemical plant jobs, and employment for 100 in mining and milling.

The funding to Frontier makes good on the province's strategy to promote Ontario-sourced strategic and critical minerals to the North American electric vehicle sector through sizeable investments in EV auto plants in southern Ontario and to smaller mining-related companies in Northern Ontario, now moving into mineral processing side. 

“Our government’s investment in Frontier Lithium strengthens the development of our Critical Minerals Strategy and our position to become the supplier, producer and manufacturer of choice for certain critical minerals," said Energy, Northern Development and Mines Minister Greg Rickford in a statement.

“The timely support of the Ontario government further reinforces our vision and value-proposition to build an integrated local mining and battery materials supplier for the electric vehicle industry from one of North America’s largest and highest-grade lithium resources," added company president-CEO Trevor Walker.