Headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Avalon Advanced Materials is a Canadian mineral development company that specializes in critical metals and minerals with growing demand for new technology. It has five critical minerals projects across Canada, providing investors with exposure to lithium, rare earth, zirconium, cesium, tantalum, tin, and indium.
Avalon highly prioritizes sustainability and thrives as the leader among junior miners in adopting ESG best practices to reduce its environmental footprint while preventing water contamination and engaging with local Indigenous communities. Avalon has been publishing an annual sustainability report since 2010 with its most recent one released in November, 2021.
“We will always strive to minimize environmental impacts in the pursuit of production of critical minerals for clean technology,” asserts Don Bubar, President, and CEO of Avalon Advanced Materials. Bubar is an exploration geologist in the industry with over 45 years of experience in Canada and a leader in recognizing the potential for developing critical minerals supply chains for Clean Technology. Throughout his career, Bubar has been an advocate for increased Indigenous participation in the mineral industry, first through the PDAC and later through the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. Bubar serves on the Advisory Board of the Faculty of Science of McGill University and the Board of Directors of PDAC’s Mining Matters earth science education program.
Currently, the Avalon team is working on its Separation Rapids Lithium Project near Kenora, Ontario, and its Lilypad Cesium-Tantalum Project near Fort Hope, Ontario. It is also actively exploring opportunities to apply new extraction technologies to recover rare earths and other critical minerals from historic mine wastes at closed mine sites across North America, while remediating the long-term environmental liability.
In our recent interview with Don Bubar, he walked us through the journey of Avalon Advanced Materials and the new plans underway for the company.
What was the inspiration behind establishing Avalon Advanced Materials?
I had been working for another company called Aur Resources up to 1994 and decided to become an entrepreneur and get my own junior exploration company started at that time by becoming CEO of a dormant shell company with a VSE listing called Avalon Ventures Ltd.
What were the initial challenges that you overcame to become one of the innovative companies in the industry?
When I got Avalon started was around the time of the Bre-X scandal which made it very difficult to raise capital for gold exploration. In 1996, I was made aware of a new lithium pegmatite discovery in northwestern Ontario and decided to option the property which became our 100% owned Separation Rapids Lithium Project.
What distinguishes Avalon Advanced Materials from the competitors in the mining industry?
Basically, we recognized early on that with new non-exchanged-traded mineral commodities that innovating efficient processing technologies was key to producing a mineral product that would be accepted in the market.
Why should the companies prioritize sustainability?
Sustainability is increasingly important to project success. For Avalon it has proven to be a strategic advantage, aligning the company with its stakeholders’ values, reducing the risk, and creating opportunities. Sustainability is cost-effective and adds shareholder value through improved economic performance. It will also improve the company’s ability to attract and retain quality talent.
Could you brief us about the current activities and future plans Separation Rapids Lithium project?
In 2021, Avalon recovered a 5,000-tonne bulk sample for pilot plant processing in 2022 to recover petalite product samples for testing and qualification by the glass and ceramic companies that have expressed interest in the high-purity petalite mineral product. Avalon continues to explore new lithium pegmatites, particularly on the western extension of the property, where several new petalite occurrences have been identified, but never previously drilled.
According to you, what are the qualities that an innovative company must have?
A vision for the future of its industry and how it may evolve and change over time. Then the companies must attract people who are already interested in getting involved in innovative approaches to the business.
As an innovative company, what are the ground-breaking changes that you expect to see in the industry?
A transition to recognizing that producing non-traditional mineral commodities like lithium, now in demand for new clean technologies, is basically an advanced manufacturing business that involves determining how to efficiently produce a derivative product that will meet the needs of the markets that are looking for new supply sources and scale the operation based on the size of the market, not the size of the resource.
Are there any innovative plans underway for Avalon Advanced Materials?
One of our many innovative plans is to demonstrate how historic mine wastes must now be treated as opportunities, not just perpetual liabilities and ‘no-go’ zones. This is because there are many examples of closed mine sites developed decades ago to produce one traditional bulk commodity where the ore contained other minerals that had no value then but do today. It just involves implementing innovative process technologies to recover the elements of interest while remediating the long-term environmental liability.