Nouveau Monde Graphite breaks ground at Bécancour battery material plant in Quebec

Aerial view, Matawine mine in Quebec. Image from Nouveau Monde Graphite.

When Nouveau Monde Graphite (NYSE: NMG; TSXV: NOU) kicked off construction this month at the site of its planned Bécancour battery material plant in Quebec, it was another significant step forward in what is shaping up to be the most advanced graphite circularity project in North America.

NMG last month inked multi-year offtake agreements with General Motors (NYSE: GM) and Panasonic Holdings, with both companies also pledging to invest more in the Canadian miner to help it produce high-quality graphite for the North American market.

China rattled that market when it announced late last year it will require export permits for some graphite products in another bid to control critical mineral supply in response to challenges over its global manufacturing dominance.

China is the world’s top graphite producer and exporter. It also refines more than 90% of the world’s graphite into the material that is used in virtually all electric vehicle (EV) battery anodes.

There is only one graphite mine currently of significance in North America, the Lac des Iles mine in Quebec, which is becoming depleted.

While there is a need for 200,000 tonnes of graphite to meet demand, the reality is, the current US supply capability is zero.

NMG aims to raise $1.2 billion to build its whole project, which it is advancing in three phases, with $725 million coming from debt and $475 million from equity. Its goal is to become North America’s first fully integrated source of natural graphite active anode material, which accounts for about half of an EV battery.

Phase one is the Matawinie mine in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, about 100 miles north of Montreal, already in operation, with planned production of 103,000 tpa of graphite concentrate over 25 years. Phase two is the Bécancour battery materials plant, with planned production of 43,000 tpa of active anode material.

Phase three is the Uatnan mine and concentrator, with contemplated production of 500,000 tpa of graphite concentrate over 24 years. NMG last year released a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) on the project, at the time a JV with Mason Recources.

Onsite work begins in April for Bécancour battery plant. Image from NMG

Uatnan, also known as the Lac Gueret project, was ranked the third-largest graphite project in the world in 2023.

The company acquired the asset 100% in January this year, NMG CEO Éric Desaulniers told, adding that 100% of the graphite produced will stay in the US and Canada.

“Mason planned it for 50,000 tonnes per annum for 24 years and now [with] the PEA we’ve shown, 500,000 tonnes for 24 years, the same block model, same resource, but we’re just mining it 10 times faster, 10 times bigger,” Desaulniers said in an interview.

With ground work started for Bécancour, Desaulniers said the concentrate will be sent as a finished product for Panasonic to use at their planned battery factory in Kansas.

Panasonic also has a plant in Nevada with Tesla, and GM’s US plants in Ohio and Michigan are under construction, with a fourth plant planned in Tennessee, Desaulniers said.

NMG is also working on plans to recycle battery material.

“At this point we don’t have any agreements to take back the product to make the full circularity, but that’s something we’re working on and we’re fairly advanced on, on the R&D side,” Desaulniers said.

“Now that we have the optics, we know exactly what each customer wants and they have made a first investment, [with] a second investment in a few months,” he said.

“We have a lot of financial institutions lined up to do the debt and the equity alongside the off takers and then 30 months of construction, and mid 2027 we will be starting to ship product to those customers,” he said.

“We have the two most advanced and largest graphite deposits because we really believe in the full vertical integration.”