Quebec soon to be a lithium producer again

Quebec will soon be a lithium producer again


Quebec is preparing to once again become one of the few lithium producers in North America. But the ore mined in Abitibi will have to be processed in China before it ends up in our electric cars.

“There is not an automotive company, whether in Europe, in the United States United States or Korea, which has not contacted us in the last three months. They all want to secure the resource, and where is the resource? It is in Quebec and a little in northern Ontario,” enthuses Guy Laliberté, CEO of Sayona Quebec.

Guy Laliberté, CEO of the operator of this mine, Sayona Quebec. The latter is a subsidiary of the Anglo-Australian multinational Sayona Mining.

Australian-American owned, Sayona Québec is currently investing more than $100 million in upgrading a lithium mine and concentrator located in La Corne, Abitibi. The facilities were previously owned by a Chinese company which operated them in 2018 and 2019 before running into financial difficulties.

“It's like a car, when it's been two years since you started it, it might cough a little at first,” says Mr. Laliberté.

Sayona plans to relaunch the activities of the mine in a few weeks and ship its first deliveries of lithium concentrate in early 2023.

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Alone with Nevada

Quebec will then again become one of the only two lithium-producing states in North America with Nevada.

However, Sayona will have to send its concentrate, whose lithium content will reach a rate of 6%, to China so that it can be transformed into a product that can be used by battery manufacturers.

The previous owner of the facilities de La Corne had begun the construction of a secondary processing plant which was to produce lithium carbonate, but the work was interrupted halfway, for lack of money. Completing it will cost at least $300 million.

“For the moment, unfortunately, as this installation is not completed, there is no other place where we can treat the concentrate. It will be necessary to think of selling it on the external markets. Is China or Asia a potential market? Of course,” confirms Guy Laliberté.

The lithium concentrate will be transported by train to Trois-Rivières, where it will travel to Asia by ship. 

“This is not bad news in itself because it will allow us to immediately receive income”, specifies Mr. Laliberté.

Sayona hopes to produce lithium carbonate in Quebec as early as 2026, but the Legault government has given it until 2031 to meet this commitment.

The leader of Sayona Quebec recognizes that developing a clean processing method lithium carbonate or hydroxide concentrate is no small feat. But according to him, projects in development in South Korea look promising.

“These technologies would respect Quebec standards,” he maintains. 

$200 million contract for an Abitibi family business 

A Quebec family business founded in 1937 beat competitors from here and abroad to win the largest contract outsourcing of the Sayona Quebec lithium mine.

“Competition was fierce from Quebec, the rest of Canada and even overseas,” says Jérémi Fournier, president of L. Fournier & Son, a company created by his grandfather.

Lasting four years, the $200 million contract covers rock stripping, loading of ore and excess stone, maintenance of mining roads and related services.

The drilling and blasting work will be carried out by another Abitibi-based company, Dynamitage Castonguay.

100-tonne trucks

To carry out the mandate at Sayona Québec at the La Corne mine, L. Fournier & Fils will use about 20 100-ton capacity dump trucks, several large excavators and other industrial vehicles and equipment.

By the end of the year, approximately 120 workers will be on duty for L. Fournier & Son at La Corne, which will be added to the approximately 80 employees of Sayona Québec.

Born in 1936, one year before the founding of Val-d’Or, L. Fournier & Fils first carried out general transport, then civil works and crushing.

“It's really since the turn of the 2010s that we took off and wanted to specialize in the mining field,” explains Mr. Fournier.

Today, the The company's clients include most of the major mining operators present in Quebec, including Agnico Eagle, ArcelorMittal, Canadian Malartic, Eldorado Gold and Nouveau Monde Graphite.

Also present in Ontario and the Maritimes, L. Fournier & Fils employs no less than 1,200 people.

“100%” owned by the Fournier family, the company periodically receives and rejects purchase offers from investors outside Quebec.

“We experienced very rapid growth, but it was well managed,” maintains Jérémi Fournier.

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