The Québec Government issued a ministerial decree authorizing Nouveau Monde’s Matawinie mining project. Located only 150 kilometers (km) north of Montréal, the deposit constitutes the largest projected graphite operation in North America and Europe and is expected to become the world’s first all-electric open-pit mine.

The project has a production level of 100,000 metric tons per year (mt/y) of high-quality graphite material, which will form part of Nouveau Monde’s value-added anode strategy — supplying material for the electrical vehicles and renewable energy storage industries.

“Today’s milestone is something we have worked toward as a team since the outset in 2011,” Chairman Arne H. Frandsen said. “After a decade of meticulous planning, we can now commence the mine construction of our world-class Matawinie graphite project.”

The environmental decree provides Nouveau Monde with the operational criteria and final design parameters to launch construction activities. Early works at the mining site are expected to start during the second quarter of 2021, and full construction is expected in the third quarter once permits and authorizations are finalized. Commissioning activities and startup of commercial production is planned for 2023.

Nouveau Monde said it has mastered the ore metallurgical process to reach 97% purity after simple flotation, de-risk its operation through its demonstration plant, and actively engage with the local community of Saint-Michel-des-Saints to secure a social license to operate and with the Atikamekw First Nation.

President and CEO Eric Desaulniers said the decree was a “critical element” they have been waiting for. “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. Doing so will position Nouveau Monde as a leading anode material provider for decades to come, creating opportunities and unlocking value for all parties involved.”

Nouveau Monde said it has initiated environmental parameters to limit the project’s footprint and protect local biodiversity by integrating an on-site water management system; co-disposal of tailings and waste rock in line with requirements of best practices; progressive land reclamation through backfilling of the pit and a comprehensive restoration plan; and an all-electric fleet powered by hydroelectricity.

Nouveau Monde said it has launched many initiatives since the deposit discovery to align the Matawinie project with the concerns and values of the local community. It signed a collaboration and benefit-sharing agreement with the municipality of Saint-Michel-des-Saints to set out a concrete social, economic and environmental development partnership through financial and participatory mechanisms.