There is still a missing link in the Quebec battery industry, but that does not prevent the ecosystem from solidifying elsewhere. Vale is taking an important step towards the construction of a nickel sulphate plant – a key component of batteries found in electric vehicles – in Bécancour thanks to an agreement with General Motors (GM).
The terms of the agreement announced Thursday were not disclosed, but the Brazilian giant will supply the American manufacturer to enable it to supply 350,000 electric vehicles annually such as Chevrolet Silverado EV, Blazer EV and Equinox EV.
“It is not so much the project in itself in its finality that is interesting, but its integration, underlines the Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, in a telephone interview. We are in graphite and lithium […] the nickel sulphate was missing. »
If all goes according to plan, deliveries should begin in the second half of 2026. At the Rio de Janeiro-based company on Thursday, no one was available for interviews. Vale has not yet confirmed the construction of its factory – a project which could reach 200 million according to our information – in good and due form. GM’s commitment confirms the solidity of the project.
Quebec and Ottawa are discussing the potential financial contribution of the two levels of government with the Brazilian multinational, confirms Mr. Fitzgibbon. In November 2021, The Press had revealed the interest of Vale, which was seeking government financial support in its efforts.
“We work closely with them,” said Minister Fitzgibbon. I can’t say it’s absolute comfort level yet, but they know what we’re up to. »
An important piece
Nickel sulphate is used in the composition of cathodes, the main element of a lithium-ion battery. Bécancour is to host two manufacturing plants: that of BASF and the other resulting from the alliance between POSCO and GM. According to our information, Ford is evaluating a “serious project”, according to our information. This explains Vale’s interest.
The mining giant would pilot the first North American project to produce nickel sulphate.
“It’s a natural extension of our business,” said Deshnee Naidoo, vice president at Vale Base Metals.
The agreement between Vale and GM comes at a time when the news has been less good for the Quebec battery industry. For different reasons, Britishvolt and StromVolt, which had been dangling cell factory projects since last year – the last step before assembling the batteries – have put their ambitions on hold.
Asked to comment on the turn of events, Mr. Fitzgibbon replied that it was still possible, in his opinion, to attract a cellier.
“We built the supply chain the right way,” he says. I prefer having a solid foundation in the cathodes and anodes rather than having a single piece of chain. Ultimately, a cellier is doable. »
The ore processed in the plant planned by Vale in Bécancour could come from its Voisey’s Bay mine in Newfoundland and Labrador. However, the company does not want to move forward on this possibility. In Canada, it is also present in Ontario and Manitoba.
Vale is also among Tesla’s suppliers.
- In addition to its agreement with Vale, GM has established partnerships with POSCO and Recyclage Lithion in Quebec.
SOURCE : The press