Tag Archives: Quebec

Nouveau Monde files US patent for thermochemical purification anode tech

Nouveau Monde Graphite has submitted a patent application for its proprietary thermochemical purification technology to the US Patent and Trademark Office that could see it gain intellectual property over a “greener” and more sustainable alternative process to that currently used in the traditional anode material production.

Leveraging Québec’s abundant, clean and affordable hydropower, the company’s technology avoids using hydrofluoric acid in favour of high temperatures and the addition of chlor-based reagent, it says.

Tests in labs and at third-party facilities have already demonstrated the technology’s performance and the products’ high purity, reaching 99.95% and over, according to the company.

Its Phase 1 purification facilities are in the final stages of commissioning, prior to starting production, process optimisation and material qualification with potential customers. At the same time, Nouveau Monde is carrying out its definitive feasibility study for the Phase 2 plant in Bécancour, Quebec, Canada.

The company’s 200,000 sq.m industrial site, adjacent to the Phase 1 location, is intended to consolidate manufacturing facilities for the production of 42,000 t/y of lithium-ion battery anode material and 3,000 t/y of purified flakes for specialty applications. The plant will process material from the Matawinie mine.

In addition to energy applications, Nouveau Monde’s thermochemical process has shown to be effective at purifying larger particle sizes that are expected to allow the company to supply high-purity, carbon-neutral graphite flakes for bipolar plates used in fuel cells, foils for heat dissipation in electronics, expandable graphite for fire retardant applications and other specialty products, it said.

Arne H Frandsen, Chairman of Nouveau Monde, said: “Research and development is a critical component of our business model. The filing of this important patent application is a tangible manifestation of our commitment to sustainable development and the success Nouveau Monde has already achieved from its Center of Excellence in Québec.”

Eric Desaulniers, Founder, President and CEO of Nouveau Monde, added: “I believe there is much appetite in the marketplace for alternatives to China’s dominant chemical-heavy processes. We have developed a technology that takes full advantage of Québec’s green hydroelectric asset and operates in a closed loop with our chemical supplier to minimise the environmental footprint of our purified products. This patent application reiterates our engagement towards R&D, innovation, and environmental stewardship to drive greater sustainability into the battery value chain.”

Nouveau Monde Graphite turns to Metso Outotec for key Matawinie processing equipment

Nouveau Monde Graphite has launched civil construction works at its flagship Matawinie graphite mining project in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, Québec, having steadily advanced detailed engineering and engaged in the procurement of key service providers, long-lead equipment and contractors to deliver the project, billed as a “zero-emission mine”, in Québec by the end of 2023.

One of these service providers has been confirmed as Metso Outotec, which has been engaged to supply key mineral processing equipment required for the Matawinie concentrator plant for high-purity graphite flake production.

The agreement with the OEM will support the development of design and integration efficiencies through process equipment chain optimisation objectives, NMG said. It also seeks to promote planning efforts, optimisation of the project cost curve and support the company during the construction, commissioning and operation phases.

“This agreement complements Nouveau Monde’s de-risking strategy and helps ensure a rapid progression of final design elements and construction of the ore processing facility,” the company added.

Following the governmental authorisation of the project in February, Nouveau Monde executed its phased program to initiate preliminary works in March. For the site preparation of the mine industrial platform and the access road connecting the project to the local highway, tree clearing was completed before the nesting season to limit impacts to avifauna.

To protect the environment and the community’s well-being, Nouveau Monde has developed an environmental surveillance and monitoring program to oversee the construction, operation and closure activities of the Matawinie project. Nouveau Monde has hired an environmental coordinator to support construction and environmental monitoring activities on-site and enlisted third-party biologists to conduct inspections for the presence of vulnerable species.

Nouveau Monde is also delivering on its commitment to maximise local opportunities and support service providers by engaging with Atikamekw, local and regional contractors and service providers via dedicated activities related to its construction procurement strategy, the associated business opportunities, as well as health, environment and safety requirements for bidding.

The company has retained mining contractor L Fournier & Fils to build the access road connecting the main Highway 131 to Matawinie’s industrial platform. Works for the 7.8-km access road began in July as part of the company’s 30-month construction and commissioning timeline. Construction of the access road is scheduled to be completed in September 2021 to facilitate subsequent civil works and on-site activities.

Eric Desaulniers, President and CEO of Nouveau Monde, said: “This first milestone kick starts the construction of the Matawinie mine, as we strive to build the high-quality, ethical and sustainable project that can cater to the growing electric vehicle and energy storage markets. We have spent the past months refining our execution plan to carry out engineering, procurement and construction activities safely and with a focus on cost and timeline efficiency. I am confident in the expertise of the technical team that we have assembled, coupled with the support of Tier 1 service providers such as Metso Outotec, L Fournier & Fils and many local contractors, to deliver on our commitments of safety, responsible practices and excellence.”

In the 2018 definitive feasibility study on Matawinie, the mine, scheduled to produce 100,000 t/y of graphite concentrate, was expected to use an electric in-pit mobile crusher and overland conveyor system to feed crushed material to the plant.

Yamana Gold retains electrification path for Wasamac in new study

Yamana Gold has reiterated a plan to minimise the amount of carbon emissions generated with the development and operation of the Wasamac gold project in Quebec, Canada, in its first study since acquiring the asset from Monarch Gold.

Monarch, prior to being taken over by Yamana Gold, had laid out plans for an underground mine at Wasamac producing 6,000 t/d, on average, with an expected mine life of 11 years. It expected to use a Rail-Veyor® electrically powered, remote-controlled underground haulage system in addition to an almost entirely electric fleet of production and development equipment.

The December 2018 feasibility study by BBA indicated the Wasamac deposit hosted a measured and indicated mineral resource of 29.86 Mt at an average grade of 2.7 g/t Au, for a total of 2.6 Moz of gold, and proven and probable mineral reserves of 21.46 Mt at an average grade of 2.56 g/t Au, for a total of 1.8 Moz of gold. The study forecast average annual production of 142,000 oz of gold for 11 years at a cash cost of $550/oz.

With drilling, due diligence and further studies, Yamana Gold, in studies forming the new feasibility level studies, has come up with baseline technical and financial aspects of the Wasamac project that, it says, underpin the decision to advance the project to production.

This has resulted in a few changes to the Wasamac plan.

For starters, the company plans to use the extract the now 1.91 Moz of reserves quicker than Monarch’s strategy, with a rapid production ramp-up in the first year followed by sustained gold production of approximately 200,000 oz/y for at least the next four years.

Including the ramp-up phase, average annual production for the first five years of operation is expected to be 184,000 oz, the company said, with life of mine production of 169,000 oz/y. Mill throughput has been increased to 7,000 t/d, on average, but the plant and associated infrastructure were being sized for 7,500 t/d. Production could start up in the December quarter of 2026, the initial capital expense was expected to be $416 million and all-in sustaining costs over the life of mine had been calculated at $828/oz.

The use of a conveyor is still within this plan, but a company spokesperson told IM that Yamana was now considering a conventional belt conveyor rather than the Rail-Veyor system.

Yamana explained: “The optimised materials handling system uses ore passes and haul trucks to transport ore from the production levels to a central underground primary crusher. The haul trucks will be automated to allow haulage to continue between shifts. From the underground crusher, ore will be transported to the crushed-ore stockpile on the surface using a 3-km-long conventional conveyor system in two segments.”

Yamana added: “Using a conveyor rather than diesel trucks to transport ore to surface reduces CO2 emissions by 2,233 t/y, equivalent to taking 500 cars off the road. Over the life of mine, the company expects to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 20,000 t.”

The aim to use electric vehicles wherever possible remains in place.

“The Wasamac underground mine is designed to create a safe working environment and reduce consumption of non-renewable energy through the use of electric and high-efficiency equipment,” the company said. “Yamana has selected electric and battery-electric mobile equipment provided that the equipment is available at the required specifications.

“Battery-electric underground haul trucks are not yet available at the required capacity with autonomous operation, so diesel trucks have been selected in combination with the underground conveyor. However, Yamana continues to collaborate with equipment suppliers with the expectation that the desired battery-electric equipment will be available before Wasamac is in operation.”

In tandem with this, the company plans to use a ventilation on demand solution and high-efficiency fans to reduce its power requirements. This will likely rely on an underground LTE network.

“Heating of the underground mine and surface facilities is designed with the assumption of propane burners, but an opportunity exists to extend the natural gas line to the project site,” it added. “Yamana has initiated discussions with the natural gas supplier and will study this opportunity further as the project advances.”

The site for the processing plant and offices is confined to a small footprint strategically located in a naturally concealed area, and the processing plant has been designed with a low profile to minimise the visual impact as well as minimise noise and dust, according to Yamana.

The primary crusher, previously planned to be located on surface, has been moved underground, with the crushed material transported to surface from the underground mining area using conventional conveyors and stored on surface in a covered stockpile to control dust.

Several design improvements to the previous Wasamac plans have also been made to reduce consumption of fresh water to minimise the effect on watersheds, according to Yamana. Underground mine water will be used in the processing plant, minimising the draw of fresh water and reducing the required size of the mill basin pond.

The Wasamac tailings storage strategy is designed to minimise environmental footprint and mitigate risk, it added.

“Around 39% of tailings will be deposited underground as paste fill and 61% of tailings will be pumped as a slurry to the filter plant located approximately 6 km northwest of the processing plant and then hauled to the nearby dry-stack tailings storage facility,” Yamana said.

Strategic phasing of the tailings storage facility design allows for the same footprint as previously planned, even with the increase in mineral reserves, the company clarified. Also, the progressive reclamation plan for this facility minimises the possibility of dust generation and expedites the return of the landscape to its natural state.

Cat to use NMG’s Matawinie graphite mine as ‘zero-emission machine’ testbed

Nouveau Monde Graphite and Caterpillar have signed an agreement pursuant to which Caterpillar will develop, test and produce Cat® “zero-emission machines” for the Matawinie graphite mine, in Quebec, Canada, with a view to becoming the exclusive supplier of an all-electric mining fleet for deployment at the mine by 2028.

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 companies said.

To this point, Caterpillar has only disclosed the development of a battery-electric 15 t LHD, the R1700 XE, however it came to light just over a year ago that the OEM was working on a separate project called ‘Project Verde’.

Brian Weller, Chief Engineer, Surface Mining & Technology, Caterpillar Inc, previously stated on Project Verde: “Caterpillar has responded to customers by launching a project that is focused on energy and emissions reduction, and helping customers decrease their carbon footprints through machinery and power solutions that contribute to lower greenhouse gas.”

Speaking about the latest agreement between NMG and Cat, Arne H Frandsen, Chairman of Nouveau Monde, commented: “I recall our first meeting with Caterpillar some two years ago, outlining our vision of a zero-emission mine in Québec. Our commitment to this vision has taken us to this very important moment, not only for Nouveau Monde, but for the global mining industry as a whole. Today, alongside Caterpillar, which in my opinion is the most trusted and reputable supplier of heavy-mining equipment worldwide, we can bring the zero-emission machines vision into reality.

“I think it is remarkable that Nouveau Monde, as a representative for the new style green resources industry, is part of spearheading the electrification of the industry, by collaborating with Caterpillar.”

Eric Desaulniers, Founder, President and CEO of Nouveau Monde, added: “We are proud to be a driving force for our peers as we strive to electrify our operations to meet our carbon neutrality commitments while maintaining the productivity and efficiency standards of our mining operations. Even more gratifying and important to our corporate mission is that our project can serve as a springboard for the future of the mining industry by collaborating with Caterpillar on these cutting-edge technologies.”

Denise Johnson, Caterpillar Group President, said: “The collaboration between Caterpillar and Nouveau Monde marks an important milestone in the mining industry. Through integrated technology, machines and services, the entire Caterpillar team is proud to support Nouveau Monde as they work towards constructing and establishing their first zero-emission mine.”

In November last year, NMG issued an “international call for pre-qualification” related to the fleet and charging infrastructure at Matawinie following work by the company’s International Task Force Committee. This work had allowed Nouveau Monde to explore “technologies, best practices and operational parameters to bring its vision to life in a cost-effective and technologically advanced way”.

As part of this pre-qualification program, companies were able to submit detailed proposals and performance specifications from their production equipment solutions between November 30 and January 30, 2021.

In the 2018 definitive feasibility study on Matawinie, Medatech Engineering Services Ltd and ABB Inc – both companies in Nouveau Monde’s taskforce committee – came up with the fleet outline at Matawinie.

“The mine will be using an all-electric, zero-emission mine fleet, consisting of electric battery-driven 36.3-t mining trucks, battery-driven front-end loaders, cable reel excavators and bulldozers, and battery-driven service vehicles,” the report read.

The mine, scheduled to produce 100,000 t/y of graphite concentrate, was also expected to use an electric in-pit mobile crusher and overland conveyor system to feed crushed material to the plant.

Weir ESCO takes advantage of expansion opportunities in Utah, Quebec

Weir ESCO’s growth trajectory has continued in 2021, with the ground engaging tool (GET) major capitalising on two fast-moving expansion opportunities in western USA and eastern Canada in the March quarter.

The acquisitions represent exciting new platforms for sales and brand recognition growth in the two regions, according to the Weir subsidiary.

With one of ESCO’s largest dealers, based in the Western US, set to retire last year, Weir ESCO decided to fill the void.

The company explained: “Without the dealer to represent us, our future with a significant mining operation in the region – a mine that generates approximately 11% of annual copper production in the US – was at stake.”

The mine’s cable shovels are outfitted exclusively with ESCO GET and multiple other pieces of equipment, including hydraulic machines and front-end loaders, are also fitted with ESCO products.

The company’s teams jumped into action to secure the business, with the new Salt Lake City branch becoming operational in early January. It got right to work establishing a direct service relationship with the key customer, Rio Tinto Kennecott, and expanding market share with other mining and infrastructure companies customers in the territory, the company said.

Up north in Canada, the launch of Weir ESCO’s Quebec branch resulted from seizing a timely, high-stakes opportunity, as well, the company said.

Quebec is home to Canada’s largest operating open-pit gold mine, Canadian Malartic. The mine employs more than 2,000 workers around the clock and many pieces of equipment are outfitted with ESCO GET, according to the company.

“When changes in the local distribution channel occurred, Weir ESCO began considering how to parlay the situation into market expansion opportunities,” it said.

Weir Minerals, a division of the Weir parent company, already had an established presence in the area, presenting additional synergy opportunities.

By the end of January, Weir ESCO’s new Quebec team was on board and sharing office space with the Minerals branch (office pictured).

As in Salt Lake City, the Quebec branch will focus on growth through a direct service approach with customers, it said.

Pete Huget, Managing Director for North America, said: “This is an energising time for us as we move with more speed and agility to take advantage of market opportunities to grow the business. We are looking forward to capitalising on these opportunities to service our own customers directly. No one can service a customer like an ESCO employee.”

Autonomous loading and hauling pays off at Agnico’s LaRonde, Kittila gold mines

Increased uptake of autonomous loading and hauling technology at the LaRonde (pictured) and Kittila gold mines has helped Agnico Eagle Mines post a record quarter of production for the last three months of 2020.

Payable gold production in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 501,445 oz at all-in sustaining costs of $985/oz, the company reported. This compared with 494,678 oz at an AISC of $1,039/oz in the prior-year period.

Homing in on LaRonde Complex (including the LaRonde mine and the LZ5 Mine), in Quebec, Canada, Agnico put the good performance at LaRonde – production of 105,729 oz during the quarter, down from 112,704 oz in the prior-year period when gold grades were 7.3% higher – down partially to the automation strategy that, the company said, had helped improve productivity and allow continuation of mucking activities during non-entry protocols related to seismicity.

In 2020, 13% of tonnes mucked from stopes at the LaRonde mine were carried out in automation mode and, in December 2020, a record 39% of the production mucking at the LaRonde mine was carried out from surface, which included 100% of the production mucking from the West mine area.

At LZ5, in 2020, 14% of tonnes mucked and hauled to surface were accomplished in automated mode with operators based on surface. This surpassed the 15% target the company had set. For 2021, it is expected 17% of the tonnage will be mucked and hauled remotely to surface and the production rate is expected to be sustained at around 3,000 t/d. “The LZ5 automation team will continue optimising the automated mining techniques,” Agnico said.

Agnico said the target for 2021 is to muck over 17% of the total tonnage for the LaRonde Complex from surface. The company said it is also carrying out work to perform production drilling using automation.

In a January presentation, Agnico stated that 10 LHDs and four trucks had been equipped with Sandvik’s AutoMine® system. Back in 2018, Sandvik announced that the LaRonde mine would become the first operation to use AutoMine with LTE communication network underground on a production scale.

To continue tailings deposition through the LaRonde Complex life of mine, Agnico is also constructing dry-stack tailings facilities, which are expected to be operational by the end of 2022. Dry stacking will help limit the footprint of the new tailings facility and improve the closure of the main tailings ponds, Agnico said.

Moving to Finland at the Kittila gold mine, the use of automation also paid off.

The company said Kittila continued delivering strong performance in the December quarter of 2020, with production above forecast by around 6,000 t. This also coincided with the commissioning of the expanded mill at Kittila, which is now ramping up towards the design capacity of 2 Mt/y.

The mine delivered a record full-year ore production of around 1.85 Mt in 2020, according to the company.

“This performance (in Q4) is driven by an improved fleet management and an increased usage of automation,” Agnico said.

Kittila has been testing autonomous hauling trucks and tele-remote equipment and is targeting to achieve 50% of production drilling and 15% of hauling remotely in 2021, it said.

On top of this, Agnico said the mill had consistently increased availability and the company was evaluating the implementation of advanced process control in 2021.

Nippon Dragon refining thermal fragmentation process at Rocmec 1

Nippon Dragon Resources, a pioneer of the innovative thermal fragmentation mining process, says it has begun transforming its flagship gold property Rocmec 1, in Quebec, Canada, into a dynamic mine through investments in exploration, development, infrastructure and equipment.

In January, the company produced 1,000 t of mineralised material from the project. With the implementation of strict grade control procedures, the samples returned average grades of 6.5 g/t Au.

Nippon says plans have been completed to ramp up production to 3,000 t/mth within the next six months.

Mining at Rocmec 1 is based on state-of-the-art technology that integrates management and planning processes into digital platforms for project control and reporting, the company says. While it is currently finalising agreements with third-party milling facilities to readily bring bullion to market, its plans are to build a processing facility underground at Rocmec 1.

“Through the use of a completely mechanised thermal fragmentation extraction process, highly concentrated mineralised material is produced with minimum dilution,” the company explained. “Minimum mining waste is produced, and all waste material is stored underground, with zero environmental impact. Mine water is also recycled, drastically reducing our environmental footprint.”

Nippon has an exclusive licence for the thermal fragmentation mining process for narrow vein mining. The process involves drilling a series of 6 in (15 cm) pilot holes into the vein with a conventional drill. Thermal fragmentation (thermal head, compressed air and water) is then inserted and spalls the rock, quickly increasing the diameter of the hole to 30-110 cm. After this, ore can be extracted in 0-13 mm fragments. The leftover rock between fragmented holes is then broken to recover the remaining ore.

The proposed development plan at Rocmec 1 is based on the company’s permit to extract up to 44,000 t of mineralised material underground from its mining lease. The company says it is working on preparing and gathering the required information for the various government agencies and authorities to go beyond the permitted 44,000 t.

Alongside this work at Rocmec 1, Nippon says it has established a series of agreements with “renowned engineerin firms” to provide engineering services and support to operations. Service agreements have also been made with organisations to provide mining supplies and equipment maintenance services, it said.

The development and production equipment fleet has also been recently upgraded to meet the production targets, it said. Nippon has, in particular, optimised its thermal fragmentation units to permit full recovery of its narrow vein mineralised material economically and with minimum dilution.

Yamana Gold evaluates Jacobina backfill plant, underground mine at Canadian Malartic

Yamana Gold says it is evaluating the installation of a backfill plant at its Jacobina gold mine in Brazil (pictured) in a move that would reduce the asset’s environmental footprint, as well as extend the life of the operation’s existing tailings storage facility.

The backfill plant would allow up to 2,000 t/d of tailings to be deposited in underground voids, Yamana said in its 2021-2023 guidance and 10-year overview release.

The miner said the construction and operation of a backfill plant would also improve mining recoveries at the operation, resulting in increased conversion of mineral resources to mineral reserves.

Jacobina produced 44,165 oz of gold during the December quarter and an all-time high of 177,830 oz for 2020, the company reported in a separate release.

This was the seventh consecutive year of increasing production at the operation, a trend that is expected to continue in the coming years, Yamana said.

“Successful infill and exploration drilling in the Canavieiras and João Belo sectors during 2020 continues to generate significant growth potential,” the company added.

Production in 2021 is forecast to be in a similar range to the 177,830 oz recorded in 2020, Yamana said.

“The operation exceeded the targeted throughput rate of 6,500 t/d for the Phase 1 expansion, and it continues to identify and implement additional processing plant optimisations to further increase throughput, improve recoveries and reduce costs,” the company said. “Beyond further optimisations, the feasibility study for Jacobina’s Phase 2 expansion plans to increase throughput to 8,500 t/d and raise annual production to 230,000 oz remains on track for mid-2021.”

Yamana’s base case in its 10-year overview also included production from an underground mine at the Canadian Malartic operation in Quebec, Canada. This consists of the East Gouldie, Odyssey, and East Malartic zones, (collectively known as the Odyssey project).

Owned 50:50 by Yamana and Agnico Eagle, the Canadian Malartic open-pit mine exceeded its revised 2020 guidance, producing 568,000 oz of gold (on a 100% basis). Production last year was impacted by COVID-19 related restrictions on mining in Quebec and is forecast to increase in 2021 to 700,000 oz, with all-in sustaining costs projected to decline to $850-$885/oz, from $945/oz in 2020.

The Canadian Malartic open pit will be depleted in the first half of 2023, and waste rock and tailings will be deposited into the pit beginning in 2023, Yamana says.

This coincides with planned first production from the Odyssey South zone at the underground project, with the Upper East Gouldie zone expected to come online in 2027.

The most recent underground mineral resource for the project, which was published in February 2020, showed more than 10 Moz of gold (100% basis), including 9.6 Moz ounces of inferred mineral resources (100% basis) and 830,000 oz of indicated mineral resources (100% basis).

“In the interim, exploration results have been exceptional, improving economics and increasing confidence that the underground project will be a multi-hundred-thousand-ounce annual producer for decades,” Yamana said.

Key development milestones for the underground project over the next three years include the development of a ramp into the Odyssey, East Malartic, and East Gouldie zones, which will allow for tighter definition drilling to further expand the mineral resource base, along with headframe construction and shaft sinking, Yamana said.

A preliminary economic assessment for the project is expected to be completed in February.

Rio Tinto to establish high-quality scandium oxide production in Canada

Rio Tinto says it will become the first producer of high-quality scandium oxide in North America, with construction of a new commercial scale demonstration plant underway at its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, Canada.

RTFT expects to begin commercial supply of scandium oxide in the June quarter of 2021. With its existing aluminium business, Rio says it is also well positioned to produce aluminium-scandium alloys to meet customer’s needs.

The company is investing $6 million for the construction of a first module in the plant, with an initial capacity to produce 3 t/y of scandium oxide, or approximately 20% of the current global market. The Government of Quebec is contributing around $650,000 to the project through the Quebec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals. The new plant will have the ability to add further modules in line with market demand, Rio says.

RTFT developed a process it has proven at pilot scale to extract high-purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining at its ilmenite mine in Havre-Saint-Pierre, Quebec.

Scandium oxide is used to improve the performance of solid oxide fuel cells, which are used as a power source for data centres and hospitals, as well as in niche products such as lasers and lighting for stadiums or studios. It is also used to produce high-performance aluminium-scandium master alloys for the aerospace, defence and 3D printing industries, according to Rio.

Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium Managing Director, Stéphane Leblanc, said: “We are proud to offer North America’s first reliable supply of scandium oxide using an innovative and sustainable process, with the construction of this new plant. Rio Tinto has been engaged in the exploration and production of rare earths and critical minerals globally for a number of years, to meet the demand in new and emerging technologies. With the support of Rio Tinto’s aluminium business, we are uniquely positioned to deliver aluminium-scandium master alloys and develop synergies with North America’s manufacturing supply chain.”

Quebec Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Jonatan Julien, said: “RTFT’s scandium oxide valorisation project is a concrete example of how we can extract value from our mining wastes. It demonstrates our ability to innovate and seize business opportunities in a growing market as we strive to ensure secure supplies of critical minerals. This business has the potential to become a major scandium supplier outside China.”

Both the high-quality scandium oxide and aluminium-scandium master alloy will be commercialised under the business brand name Element North 21.

Nouveau Monde Graphite casts net out for carbon-neutral, zero-emission fleet

Nouveau Monde is putting out a call to arms across the technology space for its Matawinie graphite project, in Quebec, Canada.

The company, which has been pushing forward development of an all-electric open-pit mine in the province, has issued an “international call for pre-qualification” related to the fleet and charging infrastructure at the project.

Since October 2018 when the company issued a definitive feasibility study (DFS) on the West Zone of the Matawinie deposit, the mining industry and the technology space that serves it have undergone huge change.

Hydrogen is no longer a pipe dream, with hybrid vehicle development already set in motion across the globe; while the types of electric solutions being offered by OEMs has evolved with new types of trolley and cable-electric solutions, plus more powerful and reliable battery technologies.

This has led to some of the assumptions made around 25 months ago being re-evaluated.

The call for pre-qualification follows work by the company’s International Task Force Committee, which has allowed Nouveau Monde to explore “technologies, best practices and operational parameters to bring its vision to life in a cost-effective and technologically advanced way”.

The company added: “Discussions with manufacturers have already enabled to identify existing machinery in development and/or available, notably the ancillary fleet where purchasing agreements are being finalised.”

David Lyon, Director Electrification and Automation at the company, provided a bit more background to the announcement.

“We’re not actually that far out from production at Matawinie; come January, we’ll be around two years away from producing at the site,” he told IM. “Over that time, we’ve done a lot of due diligence and homework, including the pilot graphite anode project.

“We now have a pretty good roadmap towards electrifying the mine, but our view has changed a little bit. We’re not just saying it is going to be electrified anymore; we’re saying it will be carbon neutral and produce zero tail pipe emissions.”

Lyon added: “We’re afraid we haven’t turned over every rock in the technology sphere and we want companies – not just the ones we have already got in contact with – to come to us with ideas.”

That change in tone has been aided by Air Liquide’s plans to build a hydrogen electrolyser in Bécancour, very close to the company’s planned anode plant. This could produce 3,000 t/y of hydrogen from renewable energy sources.

“Having a green supply of hydrogen just down the road, and less than 200 km from the mine site, is opening up the opportunity for fuel cells, as well,” Lyon said.

While hydrogen power could provide an environmentally friendly power supply for stationary plant, there is also the potential for it serving the loading and haulage side of the mine, as indicated in today’s announcement: “Whether powered by lithium-ion batteries, plug-in systems or hydrogen fuel cells, Nouveau Monde is seeking the best zero-emission equipment for heavy-duty operations and harsh conditions associated with open-pit mining.”

Lyon added to this: “The call is for our entire mining fleet – any piece of the puzzle – to open it up to manufacturers that maybe we have missed along the way. There is a lot of good technology being developed across the globe and it would be a shame to go into full procurement mode without at least allowing those companies to participate in the process.”

Large OEMs and innovative SMEs, alike, will be able to submit detailed proposals and performance specifications from their production equipment solutions between November 30 and January 30, 2021, the company said.

In the 2018 DFS, Medatech Engineering Services Ltd and ABB Inc – both companies in Nouveau Monde’s taskforce committee – came up with the fleet outline at Matawinie.

“The mine will be using an all-electric, zero-emission mine fleet, consisting of electric battery-driven 36.3-t mining trucks, battery-driven front-end loaders, cable reel excavators and bulldozers, and battery-driven service vehicles,” the report read.

The mine, scheduled to produce 100,000 t/y of graphite concentrate, was also expected to use an electric in-pit mobile crusher and overland conveyor system to feed crushed material to the plant.

Recently, the company has made headway on filling some of these requirements.

It signed a deal with Adria Power Systems, Dana TM4 and Fournier et fils – through the Innovative Vehicle Institute (IVI), Propulsion Québec and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) – that would see a new electric propulsion system developed with a rapid recharging infrastructure adapted to heavy vehicles in the open-pit mining industry.

This would also see mining contractor Fournier et Fils provide the project with a battery-powered Western Star 6900XD truck with a 36 t loading capacity that is expected to make its first real-world test runs as early as spring 2022 at a Fournier et Fils quarry, and at the Nouveau Monde Graphite site.

Such developments are representative of the government support Nouveau Monde has received – both at a federal and provincial level – and the company is hoping this assistance encourages more companies to submit zero-emission options.

“Quebec, Canada, features renowned environmental standards, innovative talents, business-forward policies and virtually unlimited hydropower, making it an ideal playground for OEMs to build and deploy their electric solutions,” it said.

Still, NMG will not be able to fill all its haulage gaps through innovative prototype development.

Lyon said: “A commercially-supported solution over the 26-year mine life is really what we want. They exist, and we just need to properly quantify all those other solutions and put them in the queue for an open procurement call.”

And, according to Lyon, there is some flexibility to the payloads and requirements outlined in that 2018 DFS document.

“While we have found solutions in those classes today…we are still a bit flexible and open to looking at the upper and lower bands in terms of equipment,” he said.

This can be seen in the full call for pre-qualification, which includes two 90 t excavators, one 50 t excavator, one 50 t wheel loader, 8-14 haul trucks with 50-65 t payloads, two drills, two 42 t dozers, two 22 t dozers, two 14M or 140 graders, two water trucks, and a range of operation and maintenance support machines. It adds up to a mining fleet including some 60 vehicles.

Flexibility on behalf of the vendors could also prove key in the company fulfilling its requirements.

“There isn’t today one supplier that is going to supply our whole fleet, and it is very important that these solutions work together,” Lyon said. “Maybe one of these suppliers has a comparable solution that matches well with other technology we are not aware of. That could make an impact on our planning.”

Lyon admits more than two years seems a long time to fill a fleet order, but he is cognisant that timeline is not as generous when considering much of it involves the use of new technology.

All this means there will be a transition to the carbon-neutral, zero-emission fleet after initial production starts up in 2023 at Matawinie. The company is putting this transition period at five years, hoping to have a fully-electric fleet by 2028.

Still, considering the 25.5-year life at Matawinie, most mining will be conducted in the mean and ‘green’ fashion Nouveau Monde’s stakeholders and wider industry are expecting.

“Nouveau Monde is proud to be acting as an enabler into the zero-emission heavy-duty operations and is welcoming any industrial operators in mining, quarry and/or construction sectors to reach out to its technical team with questions and interest,” the company concluded.

To find out more about the pre-qualification process, follow this link: www.nouveaumonde.group/qualification-electric-fleet