Nouveau Monde Graphite (NMG) has issued the results of the feasibility study prepared by engineering firm BBA Inc for its integrated ore-to anode-material model and its project in Quebec set to be North America’s largest natural graphite operation. NMG is designing a mine of the future, targeted to be all-electric, complemented by clean advanced beneficiation facilities in order to provide battery and EV manufacturers with responsibly extracted, environmentally transformed, and locally sourced green anode material.
The study projects annual average production of 103,328 t/y of high-purity flake graphite concentrate at the Matawinie mine and 42,616 t/y of anode material plus 3,007 t/y of purified jumbo flakes at the Bécancour Battery Material Plant, using a portion of Matawinie’s production as feedstock. This indicates an after-tax net present value of C$1,581 million and internal rate of return of 21%. Quebec’s affordable clean hydropower underpins the company’s technologies, economics structure and carbon-neutrality commitment.
The Matawinie mine will leverage the West Zone deposit which will be mined using conventional open-pit mining methods consisting of drilling, blasting, loading, and hauling. Estimation of the Mineral Reserves included pit optimisation, pit design, mine scheduling, and the application of modifying factors to the Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources. To maximise the NPV, mining phases have been designed and incorporated into the mining sequence to defer waste rock stripping and provide a balanced blended feed grade for the concentrator over the LOM. The mine plan is successful at achieving the targeted concentrate production with a strip ratio of 1.16:1 and an average grade of 4.23% Cg over the 25‑year LOM.
A concentrator will be built adjacent to the pit. The concentrator was designed based on the results from the metallurgical testing at NMG’s Phase-1 mineral processing facility plant and at external labs. Through crushing, milling, flotation, cleaning, and drying, the ore is concentrated to attain 97% Cg and classified per flake size. Water recycling is maximised throughout the process.
Tailings produced by the concentrator will be separated into non-acid generating (NAG) and potentially‑acid generating (PAG) for co-disposal with waste rock. A co‑deposition storage facility will be located at surface and as of Year 8, tailings will be returned to the pit using the co-disposal system. The deposit will be mined from south to north to ensure adequate space is available for in‑pit backfilling.
As part of its electrification strategy, NMG says it is committed to having both heavy equipment used for mining operations and ore concentration and processing activities become fully electric within the first five years of production. NMG’s electrification plan is not presented in this study as active planning and development are ongoing with Caterpillar Inc, which it says is expected to supply the equipment using their Job Site Solution service model. “With this model, NMG would pay for machine use on an hourly basis which includes machine supply and maintenance (parts and service) and a fleet management system. Electrical trucks and equipment would be introduced into the mining fleet as they become available. Projected to be the world’s first all-electric open-pit mine, the Matawinie Mine could reduce CO2 emissions by over 300,000 t over the mine’s lifespan.”
Back in June 2021, Nouveau Monde and Caterpillar signed an agreement pursuant to which Caterpillar will develop, test and produce Cat® “zero-emission machines” for the Matawinie graphite mining project. Looking to accelerate and tailor the equipment development, Caterpillar will engage with Nouveau Monde’s team to incorporate voice of customer throughout the development, and for testing of the zero-emission fleet and infrastructure prior to commercial production.
The truck type or class to be used at the mine has not been released though a video released by NMG in 2021 titled Taking the electric revolution to the next level showed NMG Founder, President and CEO Eric Desaulniers standing in front of a 64.6 t class mechanical drive Cat 775G, which is one possibility for the base machine for battery electric development for use at Matawinie. However, NMG told IM at the time: “At this stage, we’re exploring different scenarios with Cat to optimise our all-electric mining operations. The technology isn’t yet set in stone.”