Nothing in the Strategic Innovation Fund nor provincial investment funds precludes support for the development of important precursor materials needed to feed Canada’s growing battery supply chain. However, Canada currently produces virtually no battery-grade materials derived from nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite or lithium despite storehouses of these critical minerals.9 Given the strategic importance of such production, it is imperative that government officials calibrate investment attraction efforts toward these areas. Investment announcements by both GM10 and BASF11 show that Canada can grow this strategic segment of the battery supply chain with active government support. This growth includes the expansion of smelting and refining capacity in Canada. Government must also ensure that development is conditional on and guided by strict principles of environmental stewardship and sustainability.
Major Stages Along the Battery Supply Chain
9 See Brendan Marshall, Building Supply Chain Resiliency of Critical Minerals, published by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (November 2021): https://www.cgai.ca/building_supply_chain_resiliency_of_critical_minerals#Battery. In this article, Marshall states: “Possessing battery minerals and metals… does not equate to having value-added battery-grade materials. To create battery-grade materials, a specified value-added manufacturing stage and process are required for nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite and lithium. For example, nickel needs to be transformed into nickel sulfate; cobalt into cobalt sulfate; manganese into manganese sulfate; graphite into ultra-high-purity spherical graphite and lithium into lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide. While Canada has a strong foundation of battery minerals and metals, and downstream smelting and refining capacity for nickel and cobalt, it does not produce battery-grade nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite or lithium.”
10 Automotive News (Marcy 7, 2022) https://www.autonews.com/automakers-suppliers/gm-build-393-million-ev-battery-materials-plant-quebec
11 Electric Autonomy (March 4, 2022) https://electricautonomy.ca/2022/03/04/basf-battery-cathode-quebec/