Nouveau Monde produces the goods at graphite concentrate demo plant

Nouveau Monde Graphite’s latest concentrate results from its Matawinie graphite project in Quebec, Canada, have proven so favourable that it is upping production at its demonstration plant from next year.

The company completed mechanical commissioning of the 3.5 t/h plant, in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, earlier this year, laying out plans to, in the next two years, process a total of 40,000 t of material from the West Zone deposit at Matawinie.

This demo plant factors into the company’s bigger plan to build an all-electric open-pit mining operation at Matawinie able to produce 100,000 t/y of concentrate over 25.5 years.

In the most recent update, Nouveau Monde said, in the 43 non-consecutive hours the plant operated from November 29 to December 5, 140 t of ore from the West Zone deposit, with an average total carbon (Ct) content of 4.5%, was processed. This corresponds to a throughput of approximately 3.3 t/h, close to the 3.5 t/h design throughput.

This saw around 6 t of graphite concentrate produced, of which 5.1 t was bagged for distribution to potential customers. The natural flake graphite concentrate reached an average purity content of 96.6% Ct with a recovery rate achieving 95.3% Ct.

Karl Trudeau, Chief of Operations at Nouveau Monde, said he had never seen such a rapid ramp-up and optimisation of a graphite processing facility.

“This demonstrates the outstanding quality of the West Zone deposit of our Matawinie project. The results shown today clearly exceeded our team’s expectations, especially in the context that we had a very short break-in period. The ore responds very well to the process and its superior quality supports the efficiency of our demonstration plant, which is very encouraging for our future commercial operations.”

The company added: “In view of the promising results of NMG’s graphite production and to follow up on the orders from multiple potential customers, numerous samples have already been shipped and delivered to demonstrate the quality of our products.”

In order to meet this expected demand, the company has decided to modify its operating schedule to achieve a production rate of 3 t/d of graphite concentrate. This increase in production will require that, following the Christmas season, the demo plant will be operating 24 h/d, four days a week.

Having reached its goal of purity for its +150 mesh size concentrate, Nouveau Monde now aims to focus its efforts on the optimisation of the graphite content of the fine flakes.

To achieve this, an investigation to better understand lower grades reported in the -150 mesh category was recently performed. Samples from bagged -150 mesh product have been submitted to a specific assay procedure at NMG’s in-house laboratory in order to obtain additional details on the distribution of graphite within the fine size category.

“Following this investigation, it has been concluded that most of the contamination occurs for particles under 200 mesh size. Possible reasons for the lower grades are non-separated ultrafine particle entrainment at the last steps of flotation or insufficient liberation of the fine flakes,” the company said.

“NMG is working towards further improving the product purity, especially within the fine category, by optimising the various unit operations of the demo plant. For example, the operating parameters of the stirred media mills in the secondary cleaning circuit have not yet undergone a systematic evaluation,” it said.

Nouveau Monde concluded: “Although the company is very pleased with the results presented today, it is confident that actions can be undertaken to further optimise purity and flake size distribution of the graphite concentrate produced in its demo plant while still maintaining very high graphite recovery rates.”

Nouveau Monde Graphite COO Karl Trudeau will discuss the all-electric open-pit mining plan at the company’s Matawinie graphite project at The Electric Mine conference in Toronto in April. He will be joined on stage by ABB Canada’s Michel Serres and MEDATECH’s David Lyon, in a joint presentation titled ‘The NMG journey to the all electric open pit mine: innovation from collaboration’. To learn more about the conference, click here.