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Lithium processing facility planned for former Thunder Bay pulp and paper mill site

Avalon Advanced Materials has purchased the site of a former pulp and paper mill on Strathcona Avenue.

THUNDER BAY — An industrial site on the Lake Superior shoreline within the city boundary could become the location for a new lithium-hydroxide processing facility, an operation the proponent says would create hundreds of new jobs in the city and region.

Avalon Advanced Materials Inc. on Monday confirmed it has purchased the former Abitibi pulp and paper mill property on Strathcona Avenue.

Cardboard maker Smurfit-Stone also operated at the site, but shut the mill in 2003, and the plant was subsequently demolished. 

An office building and shipping-related amenities remain on the 154-hectare (383 acre) property.

The revelation of the purchase came days after Avalon announced it had struck a deal with a Europe-based partner to expedite the development of its Northwestern Ontario lithium mineral assets, including the Separation Rapids project north of Kenora, and the establishment of a processing facility in Thunder Bay.

In its announcement Monday, the company described the advantages of 965 Strathcona Avenue as including road and rail access, a deep-water port, and utilities services.

It said the processing facility will ensure the long-term security of domestic lithium processing capacity required for North America's electric vehicle and battery supply chain, which are core goals of both the Ontario and federal governments.

Mayor Ken Boshcoff welcomed the announcement, saying the city is "thrilled to be partnering with Avalon" to continue Thunder Bay's tradition as a strategic port for Canadian industry, "while bringing jobs and new economic opportunities to the region."

The mayor clarified in a subsequent statement that staff from the Community Economic Development Commission worked with Avalon to help it find a suitable location.

Andrew Kane, natural resources business development manager for the CEDC, said that going forward the commission will assist the company in reaching out to local contractors and suppliers as the project progresses, and will encourage it to hire staff from the region.

Now that it has finalized the purchase of the property, the company said its focus will move to building on its relations with First Nations partners, the local community and government.

Avalon said it will also continue to advance discussions with a range of other parties interested in joining the project.

The company estimates that 500 jobs would be created in Thunder Bay, as well as in Kenora and surrounding areas.

Avalon's new Belgian partner, Sibelco, congratulated the company for "achieving its next strategic milestone of acquiring the Thunder Bay site" and strengthening its electric vehicle battery market focus.

The most recently-reported target for the start of processing in Thunder Bay is four years from now.

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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