Zero carbon solutions for tomorrow’s clean technologies
Q&A with Eric Desaulniers, founder, president, and CEO of Nouveau Monde Graphite
Recently, I caught up with Eric Desaulniers, founder, president, and CEO of Nouveau Monde Graphite (NMG), during CIM 2023 in Montreal. We discussed the latest updates on NMG’s Matawinie mine operation. NMG is developing a turnkey natural graphite operation with competitive advantages due to its privileged location, vertical integration, cost structure, ESG credentials, and experienced team.
NMG owns a 100% interest in the Matawinie graphite property located in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, 150 km north of Montréal, Québec. The Matawinie mine project demonstrates exceptional potential due to its significant high-purity mineral reserve and low-cost operational model. Skilled workforce, high-quality infrastructure, including paved roads and hydroelectricity, as well as the dynamic regional business ecosystem provide an ideal environment for the development of the property.
Q NMG’s Matawinie mine is considered the world’s
first all-electric open pit mine. How did you reach to this point?
A It started with a bold vision; electrification was not as mainstream in 2017 as it is today, even less so in heavy industries. But we felt that going all-electric for our Matawinie mine was the way to go, environmentally to limit our GHG emissions and footprint, socially to rally the community behind a new mining development plus to reduce the sound level of our operations, and commercially to engage to battery/EV manufacturers and tap into consumers’ responsible purchasing desires.
Once we confirmed our intentions and validated the technical and financial viability through our bankable feasibility study (BFS), we focused on making it a reality by engaging with OEMs. We found in Caterpillar a stellar partner to help us bring our vision to reality. We signed a collaboration agreement in 2021 to map the journey for developing, testing, and producing Cat zero-exhaust emissions machines. Since then, technical teams have been working hard to advance electrification plans.
Q Recently, Caterpillar and NMG strengthened
their zero-exhaust emission collaboration through agreements for sourcing the Matawinie mine’s fleet and infrastructure, followed by an offtake MOU targeting
NMG’s battery materials. Can you please talk to us about that development? How were you able to build a business relationship with Caterpillar that eventually led
to those key agreements?
A Caterpillar shared our enthusiasm for all-electric mining and was ready to commit to the challenge. We could not have found a better partner. They are providing us with a comprehensive solution, de-risking the adoption of new technologies and optimizing operational excellence through integrated infrastructure. Our respective teams are working closely together – them visiting our site and us visiting their facilities – sharing plans and engaging to develop the best fleet and infrastructure. I was privileged to see their first battery electric 793 large mining truck at their Tucson Proving Ground in Arizona in February and see firsthand the depth of their expertise and commitment to bringing green, reliable, and performing solutions to the industry.
Q How does the offtake MOU help to supply carbon-neutral graphite materials to Caterpillar for the development of its secure, resilient, and sustainable battery supply chain?
A We are quite excited about that! Through this offtake MOU,
we are looking to establish a full circular value chain! NMG would supply carbon-neutral graphite materials to Caterpillar for the development of its secure, resilient, and sustainable battery supply chain that would in turn serve to electrify heavy vehicles, including NMG’s Matawinie fleet, which would help to continue the cycle and support the electrification of vehicles from light-passenger to heavy industry segments!
Q Finally, what are the next steps for NMG, especially
within its goals for responsible mining?
A We are looking to finalize definitive offtakes with our
anchor customers and secure project financing in the coming months to bring our projects to FID/construction. The market is actively seeking local and green sources of graphite to meet the booming EV demand and more stringent IRA regulation for non-Chinese battery materials. We are focused on bringing our Matawinie mine and Bécancour battery material plant to commercial production to supply the North American market and drive greater sustainability into the sector. At Matawinie, environmental measures are underway to test and inform our future mining practices such as gradual site reclamation, innovation dry-stack co-disposal of tailings, and of course, electrification! CMJ