Nouveau Monde Graphite still has steps to take before marketing its battery materials for electric vehicles, but its process is prompting the Asian giant Panasonic to buy what is to be produced in Bécancour by the Quebec company – which is also getting a new boost. of Quebec.
“It puts a seal of approval on our company because we are working with a top-notch partner,” says Eric Desaulniers, founder and president and CEO of Nouveau Monde Graphite. In North America, Panasonic is the largest producer of lithium-ion batteries. »
The announcement of the partnership with the Japanese multinational, which should be finalized in the coming months, is accompanied by funding of 50 million US (69 million CAN) raised from Pallinghurst and Investissement Québec (IQ) – the two main shareholders of the company – as well as the Japanese firm Mitsui. The financial arm of the Quebec state contributes 17.2 million CAN.
Raised through notes that can be converted into shares later, the financing will be used to update the feasibility study of the company’s projects.
“Panasonic has specific requirements, quantities that come with deadlines and a ramp-up,” says Desaulniers. We must adjust our construction plan according to this precise order. It will take a few months. »
It is once the process is complete that the agreement with Panasonic can be formalized. The completion of the plant works should be completed 28 months after the finalization of the contract.
The agreement between Panasonic and Nouveau Monde Graphite is part of the North American auto industry’s efforts to reduce its dependence on China for critical minerals such as lithium and graphite, which are used in the manufacture of batteries. lithium ions.
Currently, 100% of spherical graphite comes from China.
Tesla’s preferred supplier, Panasonic had announced the construction of a cell factory, the last step in the chain before battery assembly, in Kansas. This site will supply Elon Musk’s business.
Two ongoing projects
Nouveau Monde Graphite’s plan aims to transform the graphite from its future Saint-Michel-des-Saints mine – a project that is dividing the local population – into a product used in particular by anode manufacturers. This is a component of the battery found in electric cars. The bill for the two projects is estimated at 1.4 billion. Funding is far from complete.
Mr. Desaulniers affirms that Panasonic will buy more than half of the annual production of 43,000 tons of anode material that will emanate from the Bécancour industrial and port park – the place favored by the Legault government to develop the Quebec battery industry.
The Asian multinational is the first customer of Nouveau Monde Graphite in the niche of battery materials. Traxys has already signed an agreement with Nouveau Monde Graphite to purchase graphite concentrate from it.
Mr. Desaulniers did not quantify the price that would eventually be paid by Panasonic. According to its feasibility study, Nouveau Monde Graphite believed that it could obtain approximately US$8,750 per ton for its spherical graphite.
This is not the first time that the company has obtained assistance from Investissement Québec (IQ) – the financial arm of the Québec state – which is its second largest shareholder. Since 2018, it has secured around $29 million in loans, grants and equity investments, according to state-owned company releases in recent years. The support reaches 46 million taking into account the sum announced on Thursday.
“This intervention demonstrates our desire to make Quebec a high-calibre North American battery hub,” said IQ President and CEO Guy Leblanc. Nouveau Monde Graphite is undoubtedly a key player in this sector. »
For new customers
Mitsui, a Japanese firm specializing in investment and services, will not be satisfied with being a passive shareholder, according to Mr. Desaulniers.
“Panasonic will be a major customer, but we will also be selling by-products,” he says. [Mitsui] is a firm capable of helping us with both logistics and marketing for our other products. She can introduce us to other clients. »
Despite the announcements, Nouveau Monde Graphite shares fell 2.6%, or 18 cents, on the Toronto Stock Exchange to close at $6.65.
- This is Investissement Québec’s stake in Nouveau Monde Graphite. The Crown corporation is the second largest shareholder.