Northern Graphite lobbying Ontario, Quebec and Ottawa to realize its plan for Canada’s first anode factory
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Jun 14, 2023
Emma Jarratt

The Ontario-based company intends to open a facility in Quebec, fed by graphite mined in both provinces, that will be capable of producing 200,000 tonnes of anode material per year

Aerial image of Northern Graphite’s Lac-des-Iles mine and operations, including the mine, the processing plant and inventories of graphite in concentrate. Photo: Northern Graphite

The Ontario-based company intends to open a facility in Quebec, fed by graphite mined in both provinces, that will be capable of producing 200,000 tonnes of anode material per year

Northern Graphite Corp. is looking to build an anode manufacturing facility in Canada by 2026 and it needs both Ontario and Quebec working together to make it happen.

Northern Graphite is a graphite mining company based in Ontario since 2002. It has multiple sites in Canada: a producing graphite mine in Quebec, a prospective graphite site in Ontario and a nickel-copper-cobalt site in Newfoundland and Labrador. It also has a graphite mine in Namibia.

“We are intending to build the world’s largest battery anode materials facility up in Baie Comeau in Northern Quebec,” says Northern Graphite’s Hugues Jacquemin, CEO of Northern Graphite, in an interview with Electric Autonomy.

“We chose that location because we are targeting a site of about 1.2 million square metres. So, it will be a very large facility. We would like to produce about 200,000 tonnes of material. That’s the goal.”

Graphite and anodes make up 50 per cent of an EV battery cell. Securing a domestic anode producer is a critical link in onshoring Canada’s EV battery supply chain. Northern Graphite is lobbying the Federal and Ontario governments along with the local Quebec government to support its plan.

“It’s a very large and ambitious project,” says Jacquemin. “This is really a North American strategy for us, rather than a regional environment.”

Pooling resources

Northern Graphite’s battery anode material (BAM) facility intentions were first made public in January 2023. The structure of the deal is a joint venture between Northern Graphite and economic development agency Innovation et Development Manicouagan.

Northern Graphite wants to take resources from its different spoke operations around Ontario, Quebec and Namibia and draw them into a single hub. At this central location it will add value to the raw materials through anode manufacturing.

The company wants its material to be processed at the Baie Comeau plant. It’s situated on the St. Lawrence River with access to a deep water port. It has rail access and is powered by hydroelectricity.

Graphite materials would come into Baie Comeau by rail from Northern Graphite’s Bissett Creek site in northern Ontario, Lac-des-Iles mine in Quebec and by boat from the Okanjande graphite deposit in Namibia.

Then, after the refining process, Northern Graphite’s anode material will funnel into the supply pipeline across North America.

“The material travels extremely well,” explains Jacquemin. “We can deliver the material from [Baie Comeau] into Canada by train, through the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Midwest. Or, we could even go on to the northeastern seaboard of the U.S. by ship and deliver to the Carolinas and Louisiana from there.”

It takes roughly 1,000 tonnes of anode material to support a 1 GWh factory, says Jacquemin. Between Canada and the U.S. with both countries adding multiple gigafactories, the demand for anode material will be huge.

“When you talk to all these OEMs and battery manufacturers, there’s a new world order out there,” says Jacquemin.

“We have been contacted by and are in discussions with a lot of these OEMs. But, at the end of the day, the folks that will make the batteries are the ones that will need to qualify the material and consume the material.”

Going from vision to reality

While Northern Graphite looks like a promising company for both Ontario and Quebec, there is still a delta between what is feasible today and what needs to happen to bring the full vision to reality.

Today, Northern Graphite is producing graphite at its Lac-des-Iles mine. It is the only producing graphite mine in North America.

image of graphite specimen
Drilling core sample of graphite from the Lac-des-Iles mine in northern Quebec. Photo: Northern Graphite

Additionally, Northern Graphite is seeing an increasing supply of graphite being produced at its Okanjande development project in Namibia.

But the company is waiting on Bissett Creek to go into production and that site is an essential piece of Northern Graphite’s plan.

“If somebody said to us ‘We need some anode material today,’ we can start doing that. But we have to multiply the volume to about a million tonnes from 15,000 tonnes. We can be in production in 2025 in large quantities, but…we all need to work together to get this capacity,” says Jacquemin.

“From a mining perspective, we need some help to accelerate the permitting process. We need to get these properties up and running. We need these battery companies to start making some deals, so that we can get some financing. Nobody’s going to finance us unless we have an off-take of some kind, or, the government steps in and helps.”

Northern Graphite is now working on agreements with First Nation groups in and around Bissett Creek and are trying to update their 2018 feasibility study and secure funding and engineering in order to begin producing graphite.

But it is often a slow process and one that is putting Canada’s advantage at risk.

“A sense of urgency is important. There is a huge opportunity for Canada — a huge opportunity,” says Jacquemin.

“We can definitely lead the way.”

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