Québec ready to invest up to $1.4 B in the battery sector

By Charles LeCavalier for Le Journal de Montreal

Quebec is ready to invest up to $ 1.4 billion to set up an electrification industry focused on lithium batteries, which could become a “legacy” of the Legault government.

“It’s a social project”, launches the Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, in an interview with Le Journal.

Quebec wants to play an important role “from the ore to the drums”. This is a break with the classic recipe for natural resources in Quebec, namely extraction, then export. “Once and for all, we are going to take our natural resources and transform them into a value-added product”, drops the Minister.

The topic of electrification is not new. Jean Charest, Pauline Marois, and Philippe Couillard all praised its merits. But this time, large sums are at stake. Within 10 years, Quebec is planning total investments that could reach $ 7 billion in this sector, according to a study by McKinsey, commissioned by Investissement Québec (IQ) and unveiled by The Journal at the beginning of the month. 

Quest for foreign partners

In this adventure, Quebec wants to be a “partner” and intends to place its marbles. “We could reach a billion dollars”, said the minister, before specifying that the proportion of public money in the project could reach “from 15 to 20%” of the total investments, that is to say up to $ 1.4 billion.

“It’s an estimate,” Fitzgibbon said. It includes the $ 300 million that the Quebec government will inject into the relaunch of Nemaska ​​Lithium.

Its strategy: starting from the extraction of graphite, nickel, lithium, and cobalt, supporting transformation, and attracting here the manufacture of anodes, cathodes, and electrolytes necessary for the assembly of a battery. He also wants to develop the recycling of old batteries.

“We want battery manufacturers in North America to say to themselves ‘we’re going to buy these elements here rather than in Asia’,” he emphasizes. Diplomatic tensions between China and the United States will also motivate the Americans to turn to allied countries, believes Mr. Fitzgibbon.

The last stage of the Fitzgibbon plan: for a battery factory to set up in Quebec, to feed the domestic market. If Ontario manufactures cars, Quebec wants to monopolize small trucks, electric buses, and even electric trains. His dream: that a company like Lion could deliver trucks to FedEx or Amazon using batteries made 100% in Quebec.

And, who knows, Quebec’s ability to deliver by rail to Ontario, the Midwest, and the southern US, where automobiles are made, gives it a logistical advantage over Asia. To do this, you have to invest now, when the risk is very high, explained Mr. Fitzgibbon.

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