Quebec greenlights large graphite mine
Operation slated to produce EV battery anode material in 2023 Metal Tech News – February 17, 2021
Last updated 2/23/2021 at 5:34pm
After a decade of meticulous planning, Nouveau Monde Graphite Inc. has received a Quebec government environmental decree to begin developing a mine at its Matawinie project that has been designed to offer lithium-ion battery manufacturers a carbon neutral source of graphite.
"I founded Nouveau Monde 10 years ago, and today's decree is a huge milestone for us all," said Nouveau Monde Graphite President and CEO Eric Desaulniers. "With this green light to launch our Matawinie project, we plan to bring to market a responsibly extracted high-purity graphite to supply EV and energy storage sectors with a local and sustainable alternative. Doing so will position Nouveau Monde as a leading anode material provider for decades to come, creating opportunities and unlocking value for all parties involved."
Located about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of Montreal, the Matawinie mine is expected to produce 100,000 metric tons of graphite concentrate per year.
Flake graphite produced at Nouveau Monde's processing facility in the nearby town of Saint-Michel-des-Saints will be trucked roughly 100 miles (165 kilometers) to its advanced material plant at Bécancour, where the graphite will be upgraded to the coated spherical graphite that serves as the anode material in lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles and store renewable energy.
As a forward-looking company that is supplying a vital ingredient to lithium-ion batteries, Nouveau Monde intends to shrink the carbon footprint of all its Quebec operations to net-zero. To accomplish this, the graphite producer will power its operations with hydroelectric and will have an all-electric fleet of mining equipment at Matawinie.
"The creation of the Western world's largest anode-quality graphite mine will assist positioning Quebec as the prime location for the North American battery materials hub – supplying the continent with the critical anode and cathode materials required for the batteries needed for the global electrification of mobility," said Nouveau Monde Graphite Chairman Arne Frandsen.
This fits within Quebec's own critical minerals strategy.
Late last year, the province unveiled the Quebec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals 2020-2025, which provides the framework for a strategy that will create wealth for its citizens by providing an environmentally and socially responsible source of lithium, graphite and 20 other critical minerals identified at projects across the province.
"More than ever, we are determined to make Quebec a preferred location for the development of critical and strategic minerals, in order to create sustainable wealth in our communities and continue Québec's transition to a low-carbon economy," Quebec Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonatan Julien penned in an introduction to the plan.
The Quebec government has been investing in the technologies and companies that are helping to transition this plan into a reality.
This includes investments into electric mine trucks that could be powered by abundant hydroelectricity generated in Quebec and blockchain technology to trace battery metals and minerals that are sustainably produced in the province. Pilot projects for both programs are being carried out in cooperation with Nouveau Monde.
More information on the blockchain pilot can be read at Quebec invests in battery metals tracing in the November 25 edition of Metal Tech News and further details on the electric truck pilot can be read at Ottawa, Quebec invest in mining EV tech in the November 2 edition of Metal Tech News.
In addition, Investment Quebec, a financing corporation established by the provincial government in 1998, invested C$4.6 million in a C$22 million Nouveau Monde financing that closed on Feb. 12.
"We are most grateful for the continued support Nouveau Monde has received from the Quebec government and our partnership with Investissement Québec as well as the backing from our local host communities – all being important stakeholders of this success," said Frandsen.
This support from the provincial government and local residents is the product of careful planning to minimize the environmental footprint of Matawinie and maximizing the economic opportunities offered by the graphite mine.
On the environmental side, Nouveau Monde has devised a co-disposal system that utilizes benign waste rock dug up during the mining process to create cells that store sulfur containing tailings and utilizes non-sulfur tailings to seal them off from the air that could create acid mine drainage.
To ensure long-term sustainability, this co-disposal storage facility will also include a multi-layer cover to block oxygen and grow vegetation with plant species optimized for the site.
This management solution has been designed to avoid acid mine drainage and promote the rapid return of a resilient and sustainable native ecosystem.
On the socioeconomic side, Nouveau Monde has launched several initiatives to align the Matawinie mine project with the realities, concerns, and values of the local community.
In addition to creating some 250 jobs and business opportunities that prioritizes local workers and businesses, the company signed a collaboration and benefit-sharing agreement with the municipality of Saint-Michel-des-Saints through social, economic, and environmental development partnerships through financial and participatory mechanisms.
Nouveau Monde is also working with the regional school board and two forest product companies to train residents for the coming jobs at Matawinie. This paid on-the-job education program that guarantees employment upon graduation has already trained two groups and is beginning the training for a third this month.
With the greenlight from Quebec, these residents will soon be putting their new skills to work.
Nouveau Monde plans to begin early development work at Matawinie in the second quarter of this year and full construction at the mine site is expected to get underway after mid-year – once permits and authorizations are finalized.
With construction and commissioning expected to take about two years, the company expects to reach commercial production at Matawinie in 2023, which should dovetail nicely into the EV-driven demand for the graphite being produced at the Quebec operation.
"After a decade of meticulous planning, we can now commence the mine construction of our world-class Matawinie graphite project," said Frandsen.