Nouveau Monde has set up a partnership with
lithium-ion battery recycling company Lithion Recycling, also
based in Canada, to reclaim the graphite that would normally be
unusable when battery anode materials are recycled.
"Graphite is usually lost in the process of recycling
nickel and cobalt from batteries, and used as a combustible in
the standard pyrometallurgical process," Desaulniers told
Fastmarkets on Thursday June 10. "However, Lithion will be able
to extract used graphite efficiently thanks to its patented
hydrometallurgical recycling process."
Desaulnier believes that Nouveau Monde will have an
advantage through its use of a thermal purification
The material to be recycled will come from Nouveau
Monde’s own anode material plants.
The company plans to commission its coated spherical purified
graphite facility, which is based on thermal purification
processing, in the first quarter of 2022, the company said on
"We expect that the recycled graphite will be already in a
somewhat valuable spheronized shape to 15-20 microns,"
Desaulniers said. "But the graphite will be damaged a little,
with an SEI [solid electrolyte interface] layer on it that will
need to be removed. It needs to be reshaped, repurified and
SEI is a cover on active anode graphite that dictates
the functionality of the material.
"The purpose of the Lithion and Nouveau Monde
agreement is to find out how to optimize the value chain
together, and to most efficiently reintroduce this valuable
graphite into our anode-material-making process," Desaulniers
Nouveau Monde believes that it will have an advantage
over competitors which may also want to recycle their graphite,
due to its use of a thermal purification process.
"It is difficult to know whether other primary
graphite producers will be able to follow in our footsteps,"
Desaulniers said. "It will be a challenge for other producers
to do this using other purification technologies, such as HF
[hydrofluoric acid] leach processing. We expect that it will
really need a thermal purification process."
Nouveau Monde expects that this advantage over the
more widely adopted HF process will be seen when production is
"We looked into HF processing and the costs escalate
with the risks when ramping-up production," Desaulniers said.
"We also have a big advantage over other vertically integrated
graphite companies looking to produce active anode material, such as Syrah Resources, because we have
all of our business in the same area."
Nouveau Monde’s downstream spherical graphite
project will draw its feedstock from the company’s
Matawinie graphite flake project in Quebec, Canada.
Construction has already begun at Matawinie, where the
company has the right to build a mine with capacity for 100,000 tonnes per
Meanwhile, Australia-based Syrah Resources has its
Balama flake project in Mozambique and active anode material
facilities at Vidalia, in the US state of Georgia.
Despite the graphite flake capacity coming onto the
market, already available or being held back following
oversupply in 2019 and 2020, Nouveau Monde expects that
production from its Matawinie project will not be enough to
satisfy the expected growth in demand.
"Even with our 100,000-tpy capacity mine, there is not
enough to meet the demand we expect. So we need to prolong the
lifetime of our mine," Desaulniers said.
Graphite consumption in passenger electric vehicles
will rise to 1.32 million tonnes in 2031, from 160,000 tonnes
in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency. So there
is increasing demand for sustainable production of graphite and
other materials that make up anodes.
"We need to innovate. Our customers in Europe, in
particular, have recycling goals for their battery materials
and we have the perfect ecosystem to provide that," Desaulniers
said. "We will sell our material, then take it back and recycle
At this stage, it is unclear how many times graphite
can be recycled and reused under the agreement worked out
between Nouveau Monde and Lithion.
"Assuming the graphite meets the specifications and
performance to be anode grade, there is no reason why it should
not be recycled again and again," Desaulniers said.
Material output from Matawinie will be diversified
from fine to jumbo flake sizes.
"Of our 100,000 tpy, we expect 40,000 tpy will be
large and jumbo, which will be sold on the spot market and in
offtake agreements, such as with Traxys," Desaulniers
Fastmarkets’ latest prices assessment for graphite flake, 94% C, +80 mesh, cif
Europe, was $1,100 per tonne on June 10. The price was only
$100 per tonne higher than at the start of this year.
The price has been stable since May 22 with support from
high freight rates and despite increasing production in Madagascar.
Large flake graphite has various uses including in the
production of expandable graphite.
"We are already selling our flakes to customers who
are active in this market, producing foils and polymers, and it
isn’t our intention to compete with them in this
niche market," Desaulniers said.
But Nouveau Monde has looked into producing expandable
graphite from its own feedstock.
"We have done some very interesting tests in this area
and our specific flake concentrate is expanding very well,"
The remaining 60,000 tpy of Nouveau
Monde’s graphite flake production will be
medium-sized and fines, which the company plans to use in its
own downstream projects.
Fastmarkets’ price assessment for graphite flake, 94% C, +100 mesh, cif
Europe, was $930 per tonne on June 10, stable since May
The corresponding assessment for graphite flake, 94% C, -100 mesh, cif
Europe, was $605 per tonne on June 10, stable since April
Both markets have been in relative balance in recent weeks,
caught between increasing supply and high costs.
Environmental, social and corporate governance
(ESG) policies have become increasingly important in the
graphite sector, especially for those companies facing the
Nouveau Monde believes that its own adoption of ESG policies
means that it can demand higher prices for its material.
"Our high ESG standard means that we can already
command a premium for our products in the European market, and
this is also increasingly the case in the United States,"
The company already offsets all of its own carbon
"Our ultimate goal is to be able to offer a fully
Scope 3 carbon-neutral product delivered at the port of
Montreal and, should our customers request it, an option for a
fully compensated carbon-neutral solution delivered at a
premium to their battery plants," Desaulniers said.
Scope 3 is the highest standard of emission standards
measured under the international accounting tool, the
Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
"Additionally, we are developing our all-electric mine
concept. And the company we are working with will be using our
mine to showcase its fleet to the world," Desaulniers
The adoption of ESG policies is increasingly important
among the investment community.
"Investors are keen to be part of the decarbonizing
economy. This is especially the case in the US and
that’s why we are proud to be listed on the New
York Stock Exchange [NYSE]," Desaulniers said. "We have
environmentalists investing in our open-pit mine. if you can
Nouveau Monde listed on the NYSE in May in addition to
its existing listing on the TSX Venture Exchange in