Canada has rejoined the ranks of global lithium producers as the North American Lithium (NAL) project in northwestern Quebec begins commercial production of spodumene concentrate destined for electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc. and battery cell manufacturer LG Chem, among others.
The open-pit mine in La Corne, Que., jointly owned by Australia-based Sayona Mining Ltd., and U.S.- based Piedmont Lithium Inc., officially restarted production March 30 following an US$80 million retrofit and upgrade project.
Piedmont CEO Keith Phillips said the restart is an “exciting milestone” for the North American market.
“NAL is positioned to be a key contributor to the electric vehicle and battery supply chains as demand for lithium continues to rapidly expand along with the electrification economies in both Canada and the U.S.,” he said in a release.
The Quebec mine is expected to be the only major new source of lithium-rich spodumene concentrate within North America for the next two years. Sayona and Piedmont are aiming to produce 226,000 tonnes per year of the material, which contains roughly six per cent lithium oxide.
The restart of production is a second chance for the Quebec project, which came online briefly in 2018 under different ownership. Falling lithium prices forced operations to a halt and the previous owner into creditor protection in 2019.
Sayona and Piedmont purchased the mine in 2021; they respectively own 75 and 25 per cent stakes in the project.
Piedmont also has an offtake agreement in place, giving it rights to purchase about 65 per cent of the site’s output. In turn, the company has struck a supply deal with Tesla, as well as with battery cell maker LG Chem.
To date, no other customers have not been disclosed.
Shipments from the mine are scheduled to start in the third quarter of 2023.