Battery boom sparks revival for Quebec’s formerly failed lithium miners

25th May 2023 By: Bloomberg

Battery boom sparks revival for Quebec’s formerly failed lithium miners

The Whabouchi mine site in Quebec.

Nemaska Lithium  was once a cautionary tale for commodities investors betting on North America’s battery metals supply chain.

Shareholders lost money when the Canadian mining firm went broke in late 2019, collapsing under cost overruns and a crash in lithium prices. Four years later, a restructured Nemaska under new ownership is back developing a lithium deposit that could ultimately supply Ford Motor Co. with the key battery ingredient.

Ford’s supply deal with Nemaska — one of several battery-material sourcing pacts the automaker announced Monday — is the latest sign of optimism for lithium projects once left for dead. Halted operations like Nemaska’s Whabouchi mine have been resurrected by lithium prices that have nearly quadrupled since 2019. Also helping are policy initiatives such as the Inflation Reduction Act, which encourage American automakers to source battery metals from the US and allies including Canada.

“This has created the conditions for Nemaska to succeed,” said Steve Gartner, vice president of finance at Nemaska, which is now jointly owned by the Quebec government and US lithium producer Livent. “The market, and institutional and government direction, has really created a condition where there’s more and more incentive to start and develop a supply chain in North America.”

North American Lithium, a Quebec mining operation now owned by Sayona Mining and Piedmont Lithium, faces a similar turnaround after its previous owner suspended operations and sought creditor protection for the business in 2019. The openpit operations restarted in March, with some production earmarked for EV automaker Tesla Inc. and South Korean battery maker LG Chem.