After a debt collapse and four years of inactivity, the North American Lithium (NAL) project in Quebec is about restart commercial production of spodumene concentrate.
The $80 million restart at NAL, part of a joint venture owned 75 percent by Sayona Mining and 25 percent by Piedmont Lithium, will be powered by renewable hydroelectricity.
NAL is expected to be the only significant source of new spodumene production in North America over the next two years, it adds. The facility aims to produce 226,000 metric tons of spodumene concentrate per year, with the first commercial shipments expected in July this year.
Spodumene has one of the highest lithium contents of all known minerals and is a proven source material for battery production. Lithium is the dominant element in a majority of electric vehicle and utility-scale battery energy storage applications currently.
Sayona plans to complete four shipments from NAL, with a total of up to 120,000 metric tons, by the end of 2023. These shipments are expected to supply key battery and electric vehicle manufacturers, including Tesla and LG Chem.
“We applaud the work of the operating team in bringing the restart of NAL to fruition. This marks an exciting milestone not only for Piedmont Lithium and Sayona Mining, but the North American market for which we are working to supply critical lithium resources,” said Keith Phillips, President and Chief Executive Officer of Piedmont. “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.”
The North American Lithium mine project closed in 2019 after the then-owner sought creditor protection. The original NAL owner had only operated the mine briefly, but had sustained close to C$210 million in debt, according to reports.
The Soyona and Piedmont acquired NAL in 2021, with a capital expenditure of about $89 million estimated to restart the work, according to earlier news reports.
NAL is sited in the Abitibi region of Quebec, which offers “convenient” access to port infrastructure, rail and highway to bring lithium concentrate to the market. It is among the three projects owned by Sayona Quebec, a joint venture (JV) between Sayona (75 percent) and Piedmont (25 percent).
Sayona Quebec’s Abitibi Hub projects are expected to provide the necessary mineral resources to support production at NAL. An updated definitive feasibility study for both NAL and the Authier Lithium Project is expected to be provided by Sayona Quebec.
In addition, NAL and Jourdan Resources plan to conduct a large-scale, extensive drill program in 2023 to define a mineral resource base capable of supplying more tons and enhanced material quality to the NAL concentrator. This program will be related to both NAL and the adjacent Vallée Lithium Project.
Furthermore, a prefeasibility study is underway to assess downstream production at NAL through the completion of the project’s lithium carbonate plant. Results of the study are expected in the first half of 2023, with further evaluation of downstream production of lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide in Quebec to potentially follow.
Sayona Mining is an Australian lithium producer with projects in Western Australia and Quebec in Canada. Headquartered in North Carolina, Piedmont Lithium is developing a multi-asset, integrated lithium business focused on enabling the transition to a net zero world and the creation of a clean energy economy in North America.