Graphite One's Alaska project may prove key to US defence industry — CEO

Battery minerals, in particular lithium and cobalt, have attracted lots of investors and media attention this year. But graphite, one of three naturally occurring carbons on Earth, seems to have been overlooked.

The situation is about to change or so it thinks Anthony Huston, chief executive officer of Graphite One Resources (TXS-V:GPH), especially after a White House/US Department of Defence (DoD) report highlighted last month the importance of the mineral to the country’s security industry and the broader manufacturing sector.

The Canadian junior, which is developing the Graphite Creek project in Alaska, believes is in a particularly privileged position, as the report also said the US should reduce its 100 percent-import dependence when it comes to graphite supply.

With demand projections showing sharply increased graphite needs, the Canadian miner sees potential for its Graphite Creek project to be a key component in the materials supply chain.

"With demand projections showing sharply increased graphite needs, we see the potential for our Graphite Creek project to be a key component in the materials supply chain, essential to the high-tech sector, renewable energy and national security/defence applications," Huston said Wednesday.

"The report’s recommendation of direct investment in companies developing domestic sources of strategic and critical materials is a welcome sign," he noted.

The report comes as Graphite One winds up its 2018 field program, a key step in the company's ongoing field work in support of a pre-feasibility study at the Graphite Creek deposit, which the Vancouver-based miner says is the largest known flake graphite deposit in the US.

There is as much as 40 times the amount of graphite in a lithium-ion battery as lithium. This is one of the key drivers for the increasing demand for the mineral, which is expected to jump by as much as 200 percent by 2020. Only between Dec. 2016 and Dec. 2017, prices for the metal climbed 25% rise on the back of surging demand.

Demand for graphene, a recently developed “super-mineral” that comes from graphite, will also increase as the material believed to be able to dramatically improve battery technologies. While not economically viable for all applications, Ford, in collaboration with Eagle Industries and XG Sciences, said Wednesday it planned to incorporate graphene materials into several automotive applications by year’s end.

Less than a year ago the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology announced that its researchers had developed a “graphene ball,” a material that would allow lithium-ion batteries to charge five times faster and have 45 percent more capacity. That alone could have big impact on both consumer electronics and the automotive industries.

Graphite Creek, located 59km north of Nome, Alaska, comprises 165 mineral claims spread over 18,080 acres.

The proposed mine will produce high-grade coated spherical graphite (CSG), which is in high demand due to the adoption of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

The preliminary economic assessment (PEA) of the mine development project, announced last year, estimates an average annual production of 55,350t of CSG, once the mine reaches its full production in its sixth year, through its estimated life of 40 years.