Graphite One advances Alaska mine study
Mining Explorers 2021 - January 27, 2022
Last updated 1/26/2022 at 4:11pm
With the lithium-ion batteries powering electric vehicles and storing intermittent renewable energy driving enormous new graphite demand, Graphite One Inc. focused its 2021 program on collecting the final bits of data needed to complete a feasibility study for developing a mine at its Graphite Creek project about 35 miles north of Nome, Alaska.
According to a 2019 calculation, Graphite Creek hosts 10.95 million metric tons of measured and indicated resources averaging 7.8% (850,534 metric tons) graphitic carbon, plus 91.89 million metric tons of inferred resource averaging 8% (7.34 million metric tons) graphitic carbon.
A 2,052-meter drill program focused on upgrading inferred resources to the higher confidence measured and indicated resource categories ahead of a prefeasibility study was the centerpiece of the 2021 program.
"Previous drilling has identified long intercepts of high-grade graphite at surface, and results will continue to provide Graphite One with invaluable data to progress the project towards a production decision," said Graphite One CEO Anthony Huston.
This PFS builds upon a 2017 preliminary economic assessment that outlined plans for a mine at Graphite Creek that would produce roughly 60,000 metric tons of 95% graphite concentrate per year and a separate processing facility to refine these annual concentrates into 41,850 metric tons of the coated spherical graphite used as an anode material in lithium-ion batteries, plus 13,500 metric tons of purified graphite powders annually.
In addition to resource upgrade drilling, the 2021 program included geotechnical drilling at the sites of the proposed open pit mine and infrastructure on the property. This will provide vital ground conditions information to engineers working on the design of the operation for the upcoming feasibility level studies.
"We're working simultaneously to complete our PFS, and to generate additional data for our FS to further demonstrate the strong value proposition of our Graphite Creek deposit," Huston added.
While the drills are turning, the engineering team is carrying out access route surveys and environmental specialists are collecting additional ecological baseline data.
The closing in on a mine decision for Graphite One's mining and refining facilities comes at a time when the electric mobility and renewable energy sectors are expected to need massive quantities of the coated spherical graphite that serves as the anode material for most lithium-ion batteries.
According to the International Energy Agency, roughly 146 pounds of graphite goes into the average EV battery. With annual EV sales forecast to climb to 82 million by 2040, the automotive sector alone will need around 5.4 million metric tons of battery-grade graphite each year, roughly five times more than produced at all the mines on Earth.
Currently, there are no domestic graphite mines in the United States, leaving the burgeoning EV and renewable energy supply chains dependent on imports for their supplies of this critical battery mineral.
A mine at Graphite Creek and an associated facility producing battery-ready spherical graphite would help meet a portion of this growing domestic need.