Can you provide a brief background of Sayona Mining and its presence in Québec?
Sayona Mining was established in 2001 in Australia, but soon started expanding its presence into other regions with lithium opportunities. The company identified Québec as having great potential for lithium development because it is a strategic location to supply lithium and batteries to the North American market. Sayona Québec was thus founded in 2016 as a subsidiary of Sayona Mining. We are now developing two projects in the Abitibi region: our flagship Authier lithium project, and our emerging Tansim lithium project. We are also very close to finalizing the joint bid acquisition of the facilities of North American Lithium Inc. (NAL) in La Corne in Abitibi‐Témiscamingue alongside Piedmont Lithium. This bid is about advancing the development plans for both Sayona and Piedmont as we work to develop an Abitibi lithium hub in Québec. If approved by the Superior Court, the project would move the Abitibi region and Québec to a first milestone in the international lithium market with Sayona Québec leading the way.
Can you elaborate on the partnership between Sayona Québec and Piedmont Lithium, and the company’s pending acquisition of NAL?
We are delighted to have the support of Piedmont to develop our downstream activities in Québec in support of the government’s strategy of creating a complete lithium value chain in the province. Piedmont is now the owner of 25% of Sayona Québec and on top of that, we have an offtake agreement to provide 60,000 mt/y of spodumene concentrate to their operation in North Carolina.
NAL has a lithium mine and concentrator located in Abitibi near our Authier project. One of our aims with the acquisition of NAL is to improve the established concentrator and create a production hub for all the lithium operations in the Abitibi region. The concentrator will be developed to become a world class production hub, which can be used by other lithium producers in the surrounding area who may not necessarily have the capital to build their own concentrator. The acquisition also offers the opportunity for the integration of our projects, enhancing our operational efficiency and overall output. NAL’s assets create substantial synergies with a potential for low capex start-up given over C$400 million has been invested to date.
What level of support is Sayona receiving from government?
The government of Québec is very proactive in the development of the critical and strategic minerals and have shown their commitment to advancing electrification as a core part of their strategy by committing C$90 million to this effort. They are supportive of the trend to minimize environmental footprint and the Canadian government has an initiative where they provide rebates for the purchase or rental of electric or hybrid vehicles, which further supports demand for the growing electric vehicle industry.
The government is providing funding to support business development in the lithium industry and is also very much involved in R&D projects and initiatives of companies such as Sayona. We are very close to signing an agreement with the government on the green technology we want to develop with ICS. The technology process makes use of nitric acid as opposed to sulphuric acid for the production of lithium hydroxide. It is more cost effective and enables you to reduce 80% of all residues during production, making it cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
What are the advantages of Authier from a geological and infrastructure perspective?
Our flagship advanced stage Authier project is located in the Abitibi region of northern Québec, which is a huge hub for mining production. The site is 30 km from the city of Amos and 45km from the city of Val d’Or, both major mining service centers in Québec with various universities, colleges, and mining specialists. A rural road network connecting to a national highway a few kilometres away easily accesses the project. The site is 5 km from a hydro-electric power grid and 20 km from rail facilities which connects to an export port. The project’s key attractions thus include its near-term development potential, access to world-class infrastructure and labor, economical hydroelectric power, and its strategic location near North American battery markets.
What are the biggest challenges to overcome when developing a lithium project?
It is a challenge to find the right balance between developing a profitable project, meeting environmental requirements, and attaining social acceptability.