Efforts continue to turn the West Kootenay into a hub for battery manufacturing and recycling.
Jacomien van Tonder, the director of the Metal Tech Alley marketing initiative for the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation, says a feasibility study began in January thanks to provincial funding. It will look at positioning the area as a battery hub for western Canada.
Two battery recycling facilities already exist in Columbia Gardens and van Tonder said they would like to see similar and complementary businesses established.
“We are looking at the opportunities and if there is scope to do more battery manufacturing,” she said. “We do have research and development of batteries here, and then some battery refurbishment. How can we support the existing battery recycling facilities to expand?”
Van Tonder said recycling batteries from electric vehicles results in what is dubbed a “black mass.”
“If we can get someone to process that black mass, all the valuable materials can go back into the process. It all comes back to a circular economy for batteries. That’s what we want to set up this area for.”
Van Tonder will be in Toronto in June and then continue on to Ottawa at the invitation of local MP Richard Cannings, who will try to arrange for meetings with federal ministers to make the case for the battery hub.
“If I can go there and plant a seed for them to start looking at this and tell them what our plans are, why not? We might get everything we want,” van Tonder said.
“Even though we are still in the feasibility stage, I think it can be done. What I want from the study is how to do it.”
The study is expected to be completed by the end of the year, but van Tonder said it has been going well and the final report might be available sooner.
She seized on the idea after the Battery Metals Association of Canada identified the need for battery hubs in each of western Canada and eastern Canada.
She said the Lower Columbia region has an advantage because of its existing facilities.
“We are an industry-friendly region and that definitely counts in our favor. And the fact we have components of a battery hub already. It makes sense to put other components closer to what’s already here. Our proximity to the US border is extremely important as well.”
She said she expects the idea will be larger than just the Lower Columbia and could span and benefit the entire West Kootenay.
Van Tonder doesn’t think the project will create undue competition for the two existing companies.
“I think there’s enough in the economy of batteries going on to have similar business to what we’re doing already or new businesses in the line of batteries. I think both will work.”