Olds, Alberta – Look out for lithium! The province’s first lithium extraction project has been announced by the Alberta company, E3.
E3 lithium CEO, Chris Doornbos called the occasion the start of a “new era” for the province’s more traditionally oil-and-gas based economy.
“Without forsaking our past, the lithium industry opens up a whole new industry, using our existing skill set,” Doornbos said.
“The opportunity to be a global leader, and to make Alberta a lithium jurisdiction, is really and truly here.”
The development of lithium in Alberta would help make the province a key player in the production of electric batteries.
Currently, the world’s biggest lithium producers are Australia, Chile and China, but Alberta is home to one of the world’s largest repositories of lithium in the Luduc geological formation, and so it is primed to become a competitive player on a global scale.
Lithium is a recent focus of the government of Canada’s $3.8-billion, eight year critical mineral strategy which also includes other previously under-developed resources such as cobalt, copper, titanium and zinc.
E3–a publicly traded junior resource company headquartered in Calgary–holds the mineral rights to an estimated 16 million tonnes of lithium resource. It has made significant technology investments that will extract lithium that occurs naturally within oilfield brines.
E3’s goal is to trial their tech over the fall and then open a full-scale commercial plant in the area in late 2026.
According to Doornbos, the new facility could process up to 150,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium per year.
Doornbos also mentioned that he expects to see traditional oil-and-gas companies increasingly looking to lithium as another potential revenue source. Imperial Oil Ltd., for example, is already one of E3’s investors, and U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil is developing its own lithium project in Arkansas.
“I think the oil and gas companies are very closely watching the lithium space,” Doornbos said.
“I could see them partnering (with lithium companies), but I could also see them, as Exxon is already doing, doing it themselves and creating a business unit and making lithium.”
Both the Alberta and federal governments have provided funding to E3 Lithium, and the federal government has also announced the creation of a 30 percent tax credit for critical mineral exploration projects.
While Doornbos stresses that Canada will have to make smart business decisions in order to be able to compete with larger players on the global stage, he is confident that the country’s abundance of resources will help ensure a viable and long-term future in lithium development.