Canada-based First Cobalt is planning to build a specialist facility to produce electric vehicle (EV) battery materials such as cathode chemicals in Ontario.

The firm has also changed its name to Electra Battery Materials.

The new plant is expected to help meet the increasing demand from automakers to boost their electric-powered offerings.

These vehicles are powered by lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, which require materials such as cobalt and nickel.

Said to be the only integrated battery materials complex in North America, the Electra facility will be equipped to produce battery-grade nickel and cobalt, as well as precursor chemicals.

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First Cobalt president and CEO Trent Mell said: “Globalisation has created an electric vehicle supply chain that is too long, too costly and increasingly unreliable.

“Our automaker clients have a strong interest in greater localisation of the upstream supply chain to achieve greater reliability, security of long-term supply, and a lower carbon footprint.”

Planned to be developed in four phases, the new plant’s first phase will see the expansion of an existing refinery complex to produce battery-grade cobalt. It is to be commissioned at the end of next year.

Phase II of the plant involves the recovery of lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper and graphite by treating battery materials from the cathode and anode of lithium batteries.

The company plans to leverage existing plant equipment, which previously recovered nickel, copper and cobalt.

A demonstration plant is to be commissioned next year with plans for commercial-scale treating of black mass from batteries in 2023.

Under Phase III, the firm will build a modular nickel sulfate plant, which will have an initial production capacity of 60,000t of nickel.

The fourth phase involves the construction of a battery precursor materials plant in 2025.

The Canadian firm is currently in talks with suppliers to secure raw material for its new nickel sulphate facility.

First Cobalt commercial vice-president Michael Insulan said: “Electra intends to become the first regional refiner capable of providing these materials in bulk through a modular plant design.”