How has Nouveau Monde Graphite developed since we last spoke three years ago?
As a company, we are much more advanced. We are constructing our project, we are fully permitted, and we are building what will be the largest graphite mine in the western world. Not only are we set to produce graphite, but we are also positioned to transform the material for the end user. The transformation project is getting a lot of traction because it is critical to being fully integrated. We compete with the Chinese economy, as our product, which is anode material comes 100% from China. Despite this challenge, we are proving to our customers that we can build a carbon neutral product at cost parity with the Chinese in large quantities, all based in Canada.
What are the keys to executing your vision for the Matawinie project moving forward?
It starts with having the right foundation on the ground. It took a lot of effort to find this deposit and develop it the right way. As a result, our business model has proven successful in attracting the right talent. These are people who know how to process and sell graphite. We built a demonstration plant to be able to not only have a great resource in the ground, but to prove early on to our customers that we can process it effectively. We have qualified most of the flake applications, thanks to a demonstration plan of significance that has been running since 2018. Now, we are doing the same on the battery material side. The location is fantastic as well. We have one of the largest industrial parks in Canada an hour and a half from our deposit. We have cheap electricity, chlorine and access to skilled labor. These are key components that add up to make our economics very resilient compared to others looking to supply anode material.
The Matawinie and the Bécancour conversion facility are complementary assets. Can you speak to the advantage this provides?
By the end of 2023, we want to produce 100,000 mt/y of high-purity flake graphite at the Matawinie mine. Then, 40% will be sold directly as flake, and 60% will be sent to Bécancour to be further processed into mainly lithium-ion anode material. This constitutes 75% of our future EBITDA. The project in Bécancour will be commissioning before the end of 2024, and it will be finalized by mid-2025. The value-added transformation will kick in a year after we have started the mine.
What steps have been taken to make Matawinie the first ever all-electric open pit mine?
The best way to attract the right talent is to work on a project that will inspire people, and that is what we did. It is feasible to do it all-electric, and now that customers are prioritizing ESG, they are willing to a pay premium for our product because it is fully green and traceable.
How might the timing of Matawinie’s production be well aligned with potentially tight supply and demand market dynamics?
In 2014, there was only one giga factory run by Tesla and Panasonic in Nevada. Today, there are 208 battery plants being built on the planet, with a third of those plants in the western world. However, there is no North American supply chain. Anode material for lithium-ion batteries come exclusively from China. The 208 plants will require about 2.8 million mt/y more of graphite by 2025. This means we are going to experience major growth. If you include all of those plants and all of the known deposits on the planet that could go into production, there is still a deficit of 100,000 tonnes starting in 2023, which is when we anticipate to go into production.