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E3 Lithium eyes commercial facility location

A lithium extraction pilot project facility in Mountain View County opened in September
Kevin Carroll, chief development officer, left, and Leigh Clarke, vice-president of corporate development, both with E3, speak with MVC council. Screenshot

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - County council has been updated on plans to create a lithium processing facility in the region, perhaps in Mountain View County, with a delegation from E3 Lithium appearing in recent weeks.

Kevin Carroll, chief development officer, and Leigh Clarke, vice-president of corporate development, both with E3, spoke to council about the company’s interest in building a commercial operation.

Lithium is a chemical element that is a key ingredient in batteries, including those used in electric vehicles, cellphones and computers.

Carrol explained that the lithium extraction process used by the company involves drilling a well, pumping brine from the aquifer and removing the lithium from the brine.

Located near Torrington, the company’s pilot project facility opened in September. It collects the brine from the Leduc formation, with the reservoir being bigger than P.E.I.

The company is now starting the process of finding a location to house a central processing facility, which would include public consultation and engagement, he said. 

The facility would employ hundreds of workers, said Carroll.

Clarke said the footprint of the central processing facility would be approximately a quarter section in size.

“Obviously the relationships in the community are going to be critical to us because we see ourselves as a long-term member of Mountain View County in due course,” he said. 

Carroll said the finished product would likely be trucked out of the processing facility, with other truck traffic in and out of the plant, Carroll said.

“The proximity to a highway would be important,” he said. “We don’t have exact numbers on trucks. Some of the product we anticipate bringing in on rail and we are going through an exercise right now as to what that would look like.”

Considerations in choosing a site for the facility would include road access and setbacks from residential properties, he said.

Deputy reeve Greg Harris asked about emergency response plans. Carroll said those plans will be developed in due course.

“We do anticipate an on-site fire water system, self-contained suppression and those types of things,” he said. “There’s going to be a fair number of people working at this facility so obviously there would be some training that we develop prior to commissioning.”

Coun. Gord Krebs asked about response plans for possible pipeline leaks. Carroll said detection systems will be in place.

“It’s something that we are going to do,” he said.

Coun. Alan Miller asked if fresh water will be needed during processing.

“We are not going to use fresh surface water,” Carroll said.

Coun. Dwayne Fulton asked about the end-of-life reclamation plans for the project. The site would be turned back into agriculture land, said Clarke.

Reeve Angela Aalbers asked about timing for the project.

“What we’ve published at the moment is a 2026 timeframe for on-stream,” he said. “What I’m going to say is that is an ambitious target. We are working through our pre-feasibility study right now to come up with better resolution on what that schedule will look like.”

The company expects to have more information on timeline in early 2024, he said.

Council accepted the E3 presentation as information.

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