Electric car batteries have a ratio of 8:1 nickel to lithium, and Sudbury’s nickel mines are ramping up to meet global market needs for zero-emission vehicles

Welcome to Invest in Ontario’s latest in a series of regional spotlights showcasing the diverse municipalities spread across our province. Each month we post a feature highlighting a unique region and what makes it special from a business and lifestyle standpoint. As always, it will be in their own words. Here’s the next in our lineup from our friends in Sudbury.

The city of Greater Sudbury is in Northern Ontario, an area that stretches from the Quebec border to Lake Superior and north to the James Bay and Hudson Bay coastlines. At 3,627 square kilometres, Greater Sudbury is geographically the largest municipality in Ontario and the second largest in Canada. Greater Sudbury is the heart of northern business activity, located 390 km (242 miles) north of Toronto, 290 km (180 miles) east of Sault Ste. Marie and 483 km (300 miles) west of Ottawa.

Greater Sudbury is primed to meet the needs of the electric vehicle boom

During the Second World War, Greater Sudbury mines produced nickel to make armour plating for the Allied Forces. More than 75 years later, local mines are again playing an essential role in a global war, this time against the ravages of climate change.

Class 1 nickel is a high- grade metal required to manufacture Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). As the world’s second-largest nickel sulphide deposit site, Greater Sudbury is well-positioned as one of only a handful of suppliers to the burgeoning electric vehicle battery market.

There are eight parts nickel to one part lithium in each electric vehicle battery, creating a high demand for local mine production. An abundance of high-grade material, coupled with a skilled workforce and proximity to Ontario’s automotive cluster, make Greater Sudbury an ideal location for a future EV battery production facility.

The Big Nickel
The Big Nickel in Sudbury, Ontario

Greening the mining industry

Local mines are already leading by example by converting their underground fleets from diesel to electric. Greater Sudbury’s mining supply and service sector is ramping up its development of zero-emission underground equipment to meet growing international demand.

Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger has observed significant changes in the mining industry, particularly over the past 10 years, as the pace of technological innovation continues to accelerate.

“Automation has evolved from a buzzword in the ’80s and ’90s to become an industry of its own,” he added. “Many worried that technology would replace people. Today, technology and local companies entering the export market have generated new investment in a highly skilled workforce, retraining opportunities for the existing workforce and an entirely new generation of well-paying careers. The end result is a new field of expertise in our community, further strengthening Greater Sudbury’s reputation as a global leader in mining, supplies and services.”

Greater Sudbury is home to the world’s largest integrated mining industrial complex with nine operating mines, two mills, two smelters, a nickel refinery and over 300 mining supply and service companies. This advantage has given rise to a great deal of innovation and early adoption of new technologies that are often developed and tested locally for global export.

Mining giants are investing billions in Greater Sudbury

The city continues to see major investments from mining giants like Vale and Glencore, with projects valued at $750 million (US) and $1 billion (US), respectively. Vale’s Copper Cliff project and Glencore’s Onaping Depth project have both made mining electrification and the implementation of BEV fleets centrepieces of these investments.

Glencore's Onaping Depth project
A MacLean Engineering boom truck being used at Glencore's Onaping Depth project
(Credit: James Hodgins Photography)

IAMGOLD recently began constructing its Côté Gold Project, a $1.3-billion (US) open-pit gold mine located in Gogama, about two hours north of Sudbury. The project is expected to generate more than 1,000 jobs during construction, 450 jobs during operation, wages of $5 billion through direct and indirect job creation and $10 billion in economic activity.

“Greater Sudbury will benefit greatly from this new mine development as will investors seeking to grow their business in a highly desirable community,” said Greater Sudbury’s Director of Economic Development Brett Williamson.

“Our city’s collaborative business culture encourages innovation, creativity and partnerships,” he continued. “It is a place where business can start-up or expand, and it is a place where people want to live. Greater Sudbury offers an enviable lifestyle and boasts an unparalleled combination of urban conveniences and natural splendour for a very affordable price.”

Sustainable mining education

Greater Sudbury is home to bilingual Laurentian University and its McEwen School of Architecture, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Cambrian College and Collège Boréal. These institutions are as diverse as the city itself, training the future workforce for creative industries, skilled labour industries and professional services.

Both Collège Boréal and Cambrian College have launched new training programs focused on Battery Electric Vehicle maintenance for the mining industry. The course is targeted to upgrade the skills of heavy-duty equipment technicians employed in the mining sector.

Additional opportunities exist in the field of environmental remediation. Greater Sudbury is renowned around the world for its regreening program and sustainable mining practices. In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city hosted 11 delegations from as far as Russia and Chile who requested opportunities to learn best practices for regreening and technological innovation.

Resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic

“Greater Sudbury is a truly resilient community,” said Mayor Bigger. “Through challenges faced by the nickel industry and now, a global pandemic, our community has never failed to rebound and to come back even stronger. Necessity is the mother of invention. Our industries and our residents will continue to evolve and renew with the changing times. Our future is bright.”

Now is the time to see how you can be a part of Greater Sudbury’s future. Greater Sudbury’s Economic Development Team is ready to help you with your next investment. Economic development professionals can help find the right place for you to start, grow or expand your business. Contact them today to learn more about why Greater Sudbury is one of the best places to invest in Ontario: invest@greatersudbury.ca or visit www.investsudbury.ca.

March 4, 2021
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