Ford’s arrival as a customer at Nemaska ​​Lithium coincides with another change at the head of this flagship company in the Quebec battery industry, La Presse has learned. It is the turn of the number two of the company, Robert Beaulieu, to leave the ship.

Recently announced internally, the departure of the chief operating officer comes about three months after that of president and chief executive officer Spiro Pippos, whose position was abolished last winter.

It was not possible to obtain the reasons for Mr. Beaulieu’s departure. In a statement, Nemaska ​​Lithium – owned equally by the Quebec state and the American company Livent – ​​confirmed the changes, without going into details.

“The project continues to progress and we thank Robert Beaulieu for his contribution to the project over the past five years,” the company said in a statement. He will leave the company in the coming weeks. Nemaska ​​Lithium is already recruiting for a CEO. The transition is currently taking place between Mr. Beaulieu and the team in place to ensure the continuity of the project and activities until the arrival of a new leader. »

As of this writing, Mr. Beaulieu had not responded to questions from La Presse emailed to him. Before arriving at Nemaska ​​Lithium, he had spent seven years at Kniambo Nickel, a joint venture that operates a nickel mine in New Caledonia. From 2010 to 2012, he also worked at Stornoway, the operator of the first diamond mine in Quebec.

In the Bécancour industrial and port park, Nemaska ​​Lithium plans to produce lithium hydroxide – which is used in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles – by transforming the lithium extracted from the Whabouchi mine, approximately 300 kilometers from James Bay.

The project is estimated at around 1.5 billion.

Under the agreement announced Monday between Ford and Nemaska ​​Lithium, the auto giant must buy up to 13,000 tonnes per year of lithium hydroxide. This is about a third of the annual production of the Quebec plant, which is scheduled to start up in 2026.

According to our information, this agreement is another signal of the probable arrival of the multinational at the blue oval in Bécancour, in the Centre-du-Québec region. La Presse has already fanned the ambitions of Ford, which plans to build a plant for cathode materials, a critical component of the lithium-ion battery.

This planned complex would be carried out in collaboration with the South Korean cell manufacturer SK On and EcoPro Global, which specializes in battery components. If the plant sees the light of day, it would be the third project of its kind in Quebec. The joint venture formed by General Motors and POSCO as well as the German giant BASF have already announced similar projects.

“They [at Ford] are really interested,” said a government source with knowledge of the matter, but who is not authorized to speak publicly. There is no signed agreement yet, but they are doing a lot of work to establish themselves. »

Lithium hydroxide is used in the manufacture of cathodes. For Ford, there is therefore a strategic aspect to manufacturing it near a supplier like Nemaska ​​Lithium. In the Bécancour industrial park, the builder based in Dearborn, Michigan, even carried out preparatory work on a huge piece of land north of Highway 30.

A sign that discussions are going well with the government Legault, Ford, EcoPro and SK On are registered in the Quebec register of lobbyists. In their registrations, they say they are looking for public funding for projects concerning the battery sector that could see the light of day in Bécancour.