Following a rigorous environmental review, the Québec Government has issued a ministerial decree authorising Nouveau Monde Graphite Inc’s Matawinie mining project for a 100,000 t/y high-purity graphite concentrate production.
Located only 150 km north of Montréal, the company’s deposit constitutes the largest projected graphite operation in North America and Europe and is expected to become the world’s first all-electric open-pit mine, Nouveau Monde says.
“Since filing its bankable feasibility study, Nouveau Monde has invested time and effort to meticulously plan mining and environmental engineering, master the ore metallurgical process to reach 97% purity after simple flotation, de-risk its operation through its demonstration plant, and actively engage with the local community of St-Michel-des-Saints to secure a social licence to operate and with the Atikamekw First Nation,” the company said.
The environmental decree now provides Nouveau Monde with the operational criteria and final design parameters to launch construction activities.
It plans to start early works at the mining site as of the June quarter, and full construction is expected to be launched in the September quarter once permits and authorisations are finalised. The project timeline places commissioning activities and start-up of commercial production in 2023.
Arne H Frandsen, Chairman of Nouveau Monde, said: “Today’s milestone is something we have worked towards as a team since the outset in 2011. After a decade of meticulous planning, we can now commence the mine construction of our world-class Matawinie graphite project. We are most grateful for the continued support Nouveau Monde has received from the Québec Government and our partnership with Investissement Québec as well as the backing from our local host communities – all being important stakeholders of this success.
“We will exercise our mandate in the spirit of cooperation, sustainability and benefit sharing for all parties involved. The creation of the Western World’s largest anode-quality graphite mine will assist positioning Québec 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.”
Eric Desaulniers, President and CEO of Nouveau Monde, added: “With this green light to launch our Matawinie project, we plan to bring to market a responsibly extracted high-purity graphite to supply electric vehicles 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.”
Nouveau Monde is working towards developing an operation that can provide the volumes required by major auto original equipment manufacturers and battery manufacturers; the most recent estimates indicate 120.3 Mt combined measured and indicated resources at a 4.26% Cg grade. Geological knowledge of the Matawinie property, paired with experience in extracting and concentrating the ore at the company’s demonstration plant, have significantly de-risked the project.
Nouveau Monde has also integrated forward looking and innovative environmental initiatives to limit the project’s footprint and protect local biodiversity, namely:
- Integrated onsite water management system guaranteeing constant monitoring and treatment that meet the highest quality standards;
- Co-disposal of tailings and waste rock in line with requirements of the best practices such as The Global Tailings Review, the International Network for Acid Prevention and the Canadian Mine Environment Neutral Drainage Program. This management solution helps avoid acid mine drainage, provides greater environmental safety in the long term and reduces the infrastructure’s footprint;
- Progressive land reclamation through backfilling of the pit and a comprehensive restoration plan; and
- An all-electric fleet – a world’s first for an open-pit mine – powered by Québec’s clean, abundant, and affordable hydroelectricity.
Through its demonstration operations, Nouveau Monde has already validated its process for desulphurisation of tailings and completed the construction of a co-disposal experimental cell through a collaborative partnership with Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
Over the life of mine, the company intends to implement this system through a co-disposal pile and backfilling of the pit as of year six, promoting thereby the restoration of the natural ecosystem while reducing environmental risks. To ensure long-term sustainability, the co-disposal storage facility will also include a capillary barrier effect multi-layer cover to block oxygen and vegetate the site.
SNC-Lavalin, Lamont Expert, Minesite Drainage Assessment Group and the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada have conducted modelling analysis of Nouveau Monde’s co-disposal design to study critical design parameters on sulphide oxidation reaction rates and optimise configurations of the pit backfill and co-disposal pile.
Recently the company has expanded the mandate of NRC to simulate additional site-specific pile design parameters, like compaction level, using Nouveau Monde’s demonstration plant tailings and test cell results. NRC will expand the model developed in earlier phases and provide the company with a strong tool to optimise tailings deposition plans.