Nouveau Monde to start construction at Matawinie, shares up

Matawinie graphite project. (Image courtesy of Nouveau Monde Graphite).

Nouveau Monde Graphite plans to begin early construction works at its Matawinie graphite project in Quebec in the second quarter, after receiving a key authorization from the province.

With the issue of an environmental decree from the Quebec government, the junior says it now has the operational criteria and final design parameters to launch construction activities. Full construction is expected to start in the third quarter, once permits and authorizations are finalized.

The project, which will provide high-purity graphite concentrate for electric vehicles, is planned as the first open pit operation in Canada (and likely globally) that will exclusively use electric equipment.

The project, with a 25.5-year mine life, has probable reserves of 59.8 million tonnes grading 4.35% graphitic carbon for 2.5 million tonnes

The operation, 150 km north of Montreal, will produce 100,000 t/y of graphite concentrate for the battery electric vehicle and energy storage markets. The company is targeting full-scale commercial operations by 2023.

“The creation of the Western world’s largest anode-quality graphite mine will assist positioning Quebec as the prime location for the North American battery materials hub – supplying the continent with the critical anode and cathode materials required for the batteries needed for the global electrification of mobility,” said Arne H. Frandsen, Nouveau Monde’s chairman, in a release.

Nouveau Monde president and CEO Eric Desaulniers added: “With this green light to launch our Matawinie project, we plan to bring to market a responsibly extracted high-purity graphite to supply EV and energy storage sectors with a local and sustainable alternative.”

Last fall, Nouveau Monde announced a partnership with Forge Nano. The junior plans to use Forge’s technology to optimize its graphite products for EV use.

As part of its plans for an all-electric mine, Nouveau Monde is also participating in a government-led electrification initiative, launched in November.

The Quebec government has prioritized the exploration, production and recycling of critical minerals with the launch of its critical and strategic minerals plan in October. The plan outlined 22 minerals essential for the “new economy,” including graphite.

A 2018 feasibility study for Matawinie projected an initial capex of C$276 million, with a post-tax net present value of C$751 million (at an 8% discount rate) and an internal rate of return of 32.2%. The study used a life-of-mine average sales price for graphite concentrate of $1,730 per tonne, with an concentrate purity of over 97% graphitic carbon.

The project, with a 25.5-year mine life, has probable reserves of 59.8 million tonnes grading 4.35% graphitic carbon for 2.5 million tonnes.

Nouveau Monde does not yet have an Impact Benefits Agreement in place with the Atikamekw First Nation, as highlighted in a December press release from the Atikamekw Council of Manawan. A predevelopment agreement was signed in 2019.

Midday Wednesday, Nouveau Monde’s stock was up 15% on the TSXV. The company has a C$796 million market capitalization.