Montreal's Lithion Recycling Pilot Plant

On the same day that François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources issued a press release on how to "protect critical minerals sectors from foreign state-owned enterprises," U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, visited a Montreal-based pilot plant for recycling lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles. He was accompanied by Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly.

The pilot plant, Lithion Recycling, is said to be owned jointly by foreign private interests General Motors (GM), South Korean IMM Global Battery Limited and the Canadian and Quebec governments. In April the Legault government invested $15 million in shares in Lithion Recycling and gave it $7.5 million in subsidies. In a joint statement issued in September 2021, GM and Lithion announced their joint partnership "to pursue a circular battery ecosystem using Lithion's advanced battery recycling technology," with "a recovery rate of over 95 per cent and using Québec's green energy."[1]

Where the first of the recycling plants envisioned will be located is not yet determined but if GM gets its way with the Legault government, when it comes to hydro-electricity rates there is a good chance it will set up a $500 million plant in the Bécancour area in central Quebec, along the St. Lawrence River. This then lines up with the trade corridors which feed U.S. manufacturing.

Prior to the visit to the plant, Blinken delivered a 12-minute interview at the French language TVA studios in the form of a script on U.S. foreign policy. In that script he raised his visit to Lithion Recycling, saying: "That is the future. It's the future for energy, and it's the future for the climate. It's the future for Canada and the U.S. because we're working on this together with investments coming from General Motors, in this particular case. And for us, this represents a future that binds us together, but that also gives us the ability to do what we need to do for the climate."[2]

Blinken was referring to the arrangements being put in place to integrate the supply of Canadian critical minerals into the U.S. economy and providing cheap electricity.

In the United States, under the Inflation Reduction Act 2022 adopted in August by the U.S. Congress, and signed into law this year by President Biden, electric vehicles equipped with lithium recycled mineral batteries "manufactured in North America" are eligible for a total tax credit of U.S. $7500. Determined to no longer depend on China, the U.S. administration aims for the extraction and/or processing of critical minerals "in its own backyard."

In fact, on October 19, the Biden administration announced that as part of a bid to wean the country off supplies from China, it is awarding $2.8 billion in grants to boost U.S. production of electric vehicle (EV) batteries and the minerals used to build them.[3]

"The U.S. and its allies currently do not produce enough of the critical minerals and battery materials needed to power clean energy technologies. China currently controls much of the critical mineral supply chain and the lack of mining, processing, and recycling capacity in the U.S. could hinder electric vehicle development and adoption, leaving the U.S. dependent on unreliable foreign supply chains," the White House says in the statement announcing the grants.

"By undercutting U.S. manufacturers with their unfair subsidies and trade practices, China seized a significant portion of the market," President Joe Biden said in announcing the awards. "Today we're stepping up... to take it back, not all of it, but bold goals."

In March, Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to support the production and processing of minerals and materials used for EV batteries.

The $2.8 billion in grants will enable 20 manufacturing and processing companies in 12 states to extract and process more lithium, graphite, nickel and other battery materials. The states are Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington. This is the first set of projects funded by the President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to expand domestic manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles and the electrical grid, according to the statement. This is part of the stated goal of the Biden administration to make half of all new vehicles sold by 2030 electric.

The funding for the selected projects will support, among other things, the development of enough lithium to supply over 2 million electric vehicles annually and establish significant domestic production of graphite and nickel.

It is expected that the private companies that will receive these grants will match this investment with their own.

President Biden also announced, in the same statement, the launching of the American Battery Materials Initiative as a way "to strengthen critical mineral supply chains." The statement says: "Today, the White House is launching a new whole-of-government effort to secure a reliable and sustainable supply of the critical minerals that power everything from electric vehicles to homes to defense systems. The American Battery Materials Initiative will be led by a White House steering committee and coordinated by the Department of Energy with support from the Department of the Interior."

The initiative involves, the White House writes, "working with partners and allies to diversify international supply chains, recognizing that America's national and economic security is bolstered through strong alliances, and international coalitions of reliable partners reinforce the security of our supply chains."

The statement says: "The Initiative will work through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, and leverage ongoing work by the Department of State, to work with partners and allies to strengthen critical mineral supply chains globally, and it will leverage and maximize ongoing efforts throughout the U.S. government to meet resource requirements and bolster energy security."

Always in lockstep with U.S. imperialism, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke about critical minerals from countries considered "friendly" to U.S. ambitions for world hegemony in a speech given at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. in October. She referred to what U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen described as "friendshoring," by which is meant building supply chains through the economies of countries the U.S. considers friendly.

"Canada must and will show similar generosity in fast-tracking, for example, the energy and mining projects our allies need to heat their homes and to manufacture electric vehicles," Freeland said. "I cite these examples because, critically, friendshoring must be green. The curse of oil is real, and so is the dependence of many of the world's democracies on the world's petro-tyrants. Friendshoring can both defend liberal democracy and help to preserve the planet, if one of our objectives is to speed up the green transition together," Freeland said [4]

This shows how terms such as "friendshoring" and what is called the "green economy" are used not to enhance the well-being of the peoples at home and abroad but to shore up the U.S. desperation to compete with China and humiliate Russia as well as escape the profound crisis in which its liberal democratic institutions are mired.

No good will come from the direction being set for the economy which is to create a war economy linked to the U.S. striving for world domination. It is an unworthy aim which will bring undesirable consequences as the workers of Quebec and Canada are reduced to "things" whose wages and working conditions are considered a cost to be constantly reduced, while the likes of GM will receive Quebec hydro for a pittance and Quebec and Canadian tax payers have to pay to build the infrastructure for the secure trade corridors and new technologies the so-called green war economy demands.


1. "GM and Lithion Announce an Investment and Strategic Partnership Agreement to Pursue a Circular EV Battery," Joint Statement General Motors and Lithion, September 2022.

2. "Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Gino Chouinard and Georges Pothier of Salut Bonjour - Interview," U.S. Department of State, October 28, 2022.

3. White House press release and news agency reports

4. "How Democracies Can Shape a Changed Global Economy", Chrystia Freeland, Speech given at the Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, October 11, 2022, p. 8.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 10 - October 2022

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