German-Canadian startup Rock Tech Lithium officially broke ground for its first lithium hydroxide conversion plant in Guben, Germany (the “Guben Converter”). The facility will be the first of its kind in Europe and a blueprint for the EU’s new strategic goals to secure 12 times the demand of lithium by 2030 and at the same time to process 40% of it regionally.
Rock Tech’s refining plant is considered the most advanced lithium converter project in Europe and will, in one facility, process lithium-bearing hard rock into battery-grade lithium hydroxide for the cathode and battery industry. This is a significant accelerator for the EV mobility transition and fundamental building block for automakers in the region.
Mercedes-Benz will be the main customer. The new converter plant represents a further milestone in the strategic partnership between the German automaker and the German-Canadian startup. The strategic partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Rock Tech was announced at the German-Canadian summit at the end of August 2022 in Toronto following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Mercedes-Benz AG and Canada. The two companies signed an agreement last year for the supply of Mercedes-Benz battery partners with high-grade lithium hydroxide refined in the new Rock Tech plant covering an amount sufficient for around 150,000 fully electric vehicles
“For Mercedes-Benz, the shift towards electric mobility also means a change in our supply chains. Three goals are central to us: Sustainability, raw material security and localization of procurement. Today’s groundbreaking in Guben is therefore another milestone for Mercedes-Benz towards the sustainable production of state-of-the-art batteries. When it comes to our lithium supply here in Europe, Rock Tech will play a key role for Mercedes-Benz in the future,” said Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG. Chief Technology Officer, Development & Procurement.
“Our Guben Converter is spearheading the lithium refining industry in Europe. We focus on zero-waste, sustainable processing and strategic partnerships. As a Canadian-German company we are building bridges and opportunities across the Atlantic and further to Australia, the world largest global lithium spodumene producer,” Rock Tech’s chief executive, Dirk Harbecke, said.
The groundbreaking marked the official start of onsite works on the 125,750 square metres future lithium hydroxide converter. Rock Tech has recently been awarded the first partial permit according to the Federal Immission Control Act and is on schedule to progress with test piling and ground preparation. The Guben Converter shall start commissioning in mid-2025 and will produce qualified battery-grade lithium hydroxide in 2026.
The Guben Converter is the first of five converters that the Canadian-German Company intends to build in Europe and North America.