By Ellsworth Dickson
In an interview with Resource World, Eric Desaulniers, President and CEO of Nouveau Monde Graphite Inc. [NOU-TSXV; NMGRF-OTCRF; NM9-FSE] outlined the company’s plans to build a graphite mine in southern Quebec.
‘Our Matawinie graphite project is two hours, or 150 km, north of Montreal near the town of Saint-Michel-des-Saints,” said Desaulniers. “We are planning construction for this fall to build a 100,000 tonne a year flake graphite concentrator and the associated mine.”
The C$330 million Capex project is expected to receive necessary permits this summer. Construction is anticipated to take 18 months with full scale production scheduled for sometime in 2022.
Desaulniers explained that financing has been arranged with the largest group being Pallinghurst from London which holds a 20% shareholding in the company. “Pallinghurst has US$1 billion to deploy in the battery materials space in Tier one jurisdictions and they have elected us as their graphite branch,” he noted.
Nouveau Monde is in partnership with the Quebec government which holds a 13% of the company’s shares. “Quebec has announced that they are interested in funding 20% of the project financings,” said Desaulniers. “That’s typically what they do when they are supporting a company. And then we have other Quebec pension funds participating such as Caisse de Depot, FTQ, and a few other smaller institutions.”
Desaulniers said to have that kind of institutional investors, “you need to develop a project where environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) is at the centre of your development. In 2017 we decided develop the project with electric carbon neutral production. Our fleet will be fully electrified in the first five years of our operation.”
An airborne geophysicist, Desaulniers began grassroots exploration in 2012, including airborne geophysics over a wide area of southern Quebec. Matawinie is a brand new blind grassroots discovery made in 2015 measuring 2.6 km long with half of it within less than a metre from surface.
“I would say the number one quality of our deposit is the metallurgy and its homogeneity,” said Desaulniers. “Throughout the whole deposit, there’s very few variations in grade, few variations in flake sizes, and the purity we can achieve after flotation. We are proving that in our demonstration plant that has been running for over a year now. We have produced about 500 tonnes of product so far that can reach 98% and sometimes 99% purity just after a simple flotation process to qualify our product with customers. The grade of the deposit is 4.5% carbon graphite, similar to what is produced in China, the biggest producer of flake graphite with about 70% of the market.”
The Matawinie deposits offers a one-to-one strip ratio. “The most important thing is how much it costs to produce one tonne of product,” said Desaulniers. “Our cost of production is less than US$400 per tonne. Each 20-tonne truck shipping the product will have a value of US$32,000. Our goal is to produce 100,000 tonnes of flake graphite spread within a few different flake sizes and grade – 40,000 tonnes will be sold straight as flake in the traditional market mainly in the US, Europe and a little bit in Japan, and 60,000 tonnes will be sent to make spherical graphite, the product needed for lithium ion batteries.”
Next year at the peak of the construction there will be over 400 people on site and, at full scale production into late 2022 there will be 160 people working full-time. The Matawinie Mine has support from the community with 83% in favour of the project. The area has lost industrial jobs over the years and people are looking forward to new employment opportunities.
Nouveau Monde has successfully commissioned its demonstration micronization and spheronization line. The successful commissioning will enable the company to move forward to supply the lithium-ion battery market with a product that is ethically and sustainably extracted and processed.