EV demand drives Graphite One in Alaska
Mining Explorers 2019 – Published Nov. 1, 2019
Last updated 6/22/2020 at 11:29am
With the goal of helping to meet the rocketing demand of graphite needed as anode material for the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles, Graphite One Inc. is focused on advancing its Graphite Creek deposit in western Alaska toward development.
A 2017 preliminary economic assessment outlines a roughly 2,800-metric-ton processing facility at Graphite Creek. Once this operation is running at full capacity, which the PEA slates for the sixth year of production, this mine would be churning out roughly 60,000 metric tons of 95 percent graphite concentrate per year.
In addition to the mine, the PEA also considers an advanced material processing facility to refine these concentrates into 41,850 metric tons of the coated spherical graphite used in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries and 13,500 metric tons of purified graphite powders annually.
According to a resource calculated early in 2019, Graphite Creek now hosts 10.95 million metric tons of measured and indicated resources averaging 7.8 percent (850,534 metric tons) graphite; plus 91.89 million metric tons of inferred resource averaging 8 percent (7.34 million metric tons) graphite.
This marks an 8 percent increase in grade and 14 percent increase in total graphite in the combined measured and indicated resource categories; and a 14 percent increase in grade and 48 percent increase in inferred resources, when compared to the resource used for the 2017 PEA.
The company is planning to further expand the measured and indicated resource with a 2,000-meter drill program being carried out this year.
The increased and upgraded resource at Graphite Creek will form the basis for a prefeasibility study expected to be completed early next year.
In preparation for this PFS, Graphite One initiated a pilot-scale program aimed at further demonstrating that Graphite Creek is particularly well suited to fill the growing graphite demand being driven by batteries and the EVs they store power for.
The company coined the acronym STAX to describe the distinctive spheroidal, thin, aggregate and expanded graphite in the Graphite Creek deposit – characteristics that may make the material a good fit for high-tech and green energy sector applications that are driving the rapidly expanding graphite market.
Graphite One believes the uniqueness of STAX graphite could provide a major competitive advantage by delivering an American supply of high-end graphite products at lower costs and with superior performance.
The naturally occurring spherical graphite is of particular interest because it is the form used as the anode material in lithium-ion batteries.
Preliminary tests found that more than 74 percent of the STAX flake graphite could be turned into spherical graphite without milling.
To further test this material, Graphite One shipped roughly 12,000 pounds of graphitic material from surface sampling at Graphite Creek to a United States-based industrial partner for processing into advanced graphite materials.
Primary and secondary processing is being carried out on the bulk sample material from Graphite Creek, which includes the production of batches of value-added products for market sampling in the energy storage and other high-margin market segments.
Results from this pilot-scale program will also provide vital data and sample material for the PFS.
Together, the mine and advanced processing facility being considered in this detailed engineering and economic study are known as Graphite One.
"With the prospect of a low-cost, 40-year mine life using half of the identified graphite mineral resources and, given our projected production costs and conservative pricing assumptions, we are confident that Graphite One has the potential to become a reliable provider of graphite materials critical to clean-tech, high-tech and national security applications," said Graphite One CEO Anthony Huston.
EDITOR'S NOTE: In October, Alaska Governor Michael Dunleavy nominated Graphite Creek as a high-priority infrastructure project. See Graphite Creek nominated high priority to find out more about this exciting development after Mining Explorers 2019 went to print.