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Alliance Magnesium, in Danville, Québec, Constructing a New Plant for Primary Production of Magnesium; Interview with Joel Fournier, President and Chief Technology Officer

on 7/21/2020
Alliance Magnesium, located in Danville, Québec, has developed and patented technology, based on clean electrolysis to extract the magnesium, contained in serpentine rock and produce recycled magnesium. This revolutionary process will bring a worldwide paradigm shift in magnesium production, turning international environmental issues into economic successes. Alliance will capitalize on growing demand for metallic magnesium and alloys, particularly in the aircraft and automotive industries. We learned from Joel Fournier, President and Chief Technology Officer of Alliance Magnesium, that the Company recently officially broke ground on its high-value, added magnesium ingot production plant that will produce a very green magnesium metal.

Joel Fournier, President and Chief Technology Officer of Alliance Magnesium

Alliance Magnesium Begins Construction of Its Magnesium Ingot Plant

Dr. Allen Alper: This is Dr. Allen Alper, Editor-in-Chief of Metals News, interviewing Joel Fournier, who is the President and Chief Technology Officer of Alliance Magnesium. Joel, I wonder if you could give our readers/investors an overview of your Company and what differentiates your Company from others?

Dr. Joel Fournier: We will construct a new plant for primary production of magnesium.

This production of magnesium is based on a mineral that is a thermal mining residue that contains a significant amount of magnesium. We're talking about more than 25% of magnesium content. Our Company will produce some magnesium metal, based on a process, which is combining some hydrometallurgy process. Also, to complete the process, we will use some hydroelectricity to make the electrolysis of the magnesium chloride that we will obtain. That of course will produce a very green magnesium metal.

We plan to become the greenest producer of magnesium in the world, far away from the Chinese process, which is a thermal based process that is very polluting, compared to our process. On top of that, we will be able to do it at a very competitive cost compared to the Chinese.

Dr. Allen Alper: Oh, that sounds very good! Could you tell our readers/investors a little bit more about the process, Joel?

Dr. Joel Fournier: It's a process that has been inspired by other technology. The first one is to leech that mineral or residue. The important thing is the fact that this mineral is already extracted, it's already crushed. It's already there. It is easily available for us. It looks like a very huge mountain, of this mineral that has been already crushed for us. We start with the first cleaning of this material, or crush this material to reduce it to a smaller size, but it's already classified for us. So that's a big advantage.

We leech it, by using hydrochloric acid, which will leech all the metals contained and transform those metal into salt. The magnesium oxide content in this material will became magnesium chloride. Essentially, it's salt, but also the other material, like iron, will also became iron chloride. And the only material that remains is the silica, which essentially is not leeched. It's a process where you transform, the acid into a salt again. We can make a new transition that would precipitate all the impurities that are not magnesium chloride, to produce a very, very, very clear solution and clean solution of magnesium chloride. This magnesium chloride after that has to be transformed into a krill by evaporation or by crystallization.

After that, this salt is introduced to molten salt electrolyzer, that is used to separate the metal and the chloride. And the metal goes to for the casting line, where it forms the ingots. But the chloride that is released is returned to where we recombine this chlorine with some hydrogen and we regenerate the HCL, which is the raw material that we use to leech. It's essentially a closed loop process, where the HCL is always regenerated, but with the production at the end of a very clean magnesium metal. So essentially that describes the process.

Dr. Allen Alper: It sounds excellent. Could you tell our readers/investors a little bit about your plans from construction going forward, but what the schedule looks like?

Dr. Joel Fournier: We recently announced the start of the construction of what we call the commercial demonstration plant. So we have our project in multiple phases. This one will produce 18,000 tons of metal per year. This will be separating two types of metal. The first part of this metal, close to 7,000 tons, will be what we call primary metal, coming directly from the deposit of mining residue. An important component of this phase will be also the production of a secondary metal, a little over 7,000 tons, to complete the 18,000 tons. This is essentially the phase that we start, the construction that we start today.

In 2021, we will be starting the production of secondary. We can start the secondary first because the foundry would be built first and after that we will complete the primary section to start the production of primary before the end of 2021. Construction will be complete somewhere between July and December of 2021. In 2022 we should start the primary metal production.

After that, we will increase the capacity principally of the primary section to increase the capacity to 50,000 tons, which will be 35,000 tons of primary, metal, and 15,000 tons of secondary metal. We will be on target to become an important producer of magnesium in the world, not the biggest one, but an important one, and to do it in the cleanest way possible. This is essentially our business case.

Dr. Allen Alper: Well, that sounds great. Could you tell our readers/investors a little bit more about the product that you'll end up selling, what form it'll be in and what market it'll go to.

Dr. Joel Fournier: The magnesium market, especially in North America, is divided into two major sectors, for us. The first is the aluminum industry, which is using magnesium metal as an alloying ingredient. Aluminum is rarely used as a pure metal, most of the time it's used as an alloy. Most of the aluminum that you find, for example, in a beverage can, or many applications, contains anywhere from 1% to 6% magnesium metal, depending of the type of alloy that we are dealing with. The aluminum industry is one of our main markets, of course.

The second part of our market is everything that is related to automotive parts. In automotive parts there are some magnesium parts that contain over 90% magnesium with maybe 5%, 6% aluminum and some other minor ingredients. These are the two big markets.

Dr. Allen Alper: Oh that sounds very good. Could you tell our readers/investors a little bit about your background and your Management Team?

Dr. Joel Fournier: We have a very experienced team. You will see, within a couple of days, our new Board Members, and our new investors, who are, international, well recognized experts in their domain. Myself, I have a PhD in physical chemistry. I've been involved in many projects of technology development, technology improvements, technology transfer, with a career of over 25 years in the sector, developing many technologies. I have many patents. That's my specialty. I'm more the technical guy behind this project. And I'm also the founder of the project in fact. So on this, this is about myself.

In the group, we have people coming from the magnesium industry, but also from the aluminum industry. We have people, who are very experienced. Our CEO has been named recently. He is a former CFO of Alouette aluminum smelter, which is still the largest sediment smelter in North America. We have people from Marubeni, a new investor that has put money into our project. As you know, Marubeni is a major Japanese group, already involved in the field of aluminum. They have a strong interest in magnesium, as a good place for them to diversify their potential of having access to magnesium in the world.

Dr. Allen Alper: Well, it looks like you and your team have very strong backgrounds. You are a great team. Could you tell our readers/investors a little bit about your share and capital structure?

Dr. Joel Fournier: Our capital structure is divided between different groups. The funders group, including myself, owns over than 25 % of the outstanding shares. A private equity group, which invests in early stage projects has 40% of the overall equity, followed by Marubeni with 15%, and Fondaction, an institutional fund, with 10 %. The remaining is held by the Government of Quebect hrough its investment society Investissement Québec. So, different stockholders share the capital structure, with no one with a majority position. That's the way we have built this Company.

Dr. Allen Alper: If private investors wanted to invest in your Company, can they do that?

Dr. Joel Fournier: For this round, the capital is closed. We will probably have another round when we increase our capacity to 50,000 tons. We will require another 800 million dollars or so. At that time, we may look to our partners, or maybe add new partners. But for the moment, most of the capital is closed.

Dr. Allen Alper: Okay. Is there anything else you'd like to add, Joel?

Dr. Joel Fournier: We will be a new player in magnesium for the US market, making sure that the US market will be less dependent on importing from a different source, including China, because China controls over 85% of the overall world market. Both we and the US will benefit.

As Canadians, we are happy to return back into the field of magnesium to offer a new supply opportunity for the different users in the US, Europe and Canada for a new metal. Just like producing clean aluminum and having aluminum that is greener, containing less CO2, it's exactly the same thing for magnesium. We want to produce magnesium that will have a very low footprint in CO2. We will offer a good quality metal, with a low carbon footprint. That will be very attractive for the automotive industry, but also the aluminum industry to be able to supply green metal for their consumers.

Dr. Allen Alper: Well, that sounds very good. Excellent! It sounds like you'll be filling a niche that will be very helpful for the United States and Canada. So that sounds excellent. Is there anything else you'd like to add, Joel?

Dr. Joel Fournier: Just to thank you very much for your interest in our Company. It's always a pleasure to have, people like you interested in us. If you have a chance to visit us sometime, you will be more than welcome.

Dr. Allen Alper: Well, that sounds very good. Thank you. We’ll publish your press releases as they come out so our readers/investors can follow your progress.

Karine Vallières
Director, Communication and Public Affairs

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