TMR produces independent market intelligence and analysis on the rare earths, graphite and other critical and strategic materials. We provide research management, due-diligence and advisory services to public and private companies, institutional investors, government agencies and other market-intelligence firms. We focus on the challenges and opportunities associated with these materials.

In March 2016 I had the opportunity to visit a leading North American research and development company, focused on materials and components relating to energy-storage devices. I was invited to visit the facility by Alabama Graphite Corp (AGC) (TSX.V:ALP, OTCQX:ABGPF), to see how AGC’s development of coated spherical purified graphite (CSPG) is progressing, and to get a better understanding of the battery prototyping and production processes.

For competitiveness reasons, the invitation was issued with the proviso that I not identify the company that I visited, or the personnel that I interviewed, under the terms of a strict non-disclosure agreement. The company (which I will call EngineeringCo for the purposes of this article) assists a number of players in the critical-materials space with the development of value-added processes, with particular expertise in Li-ion batteries (LIBs). EngineeringCo was at pains to make sure that the only work that I saw during the visit, pertained to processes and components relating to and produced from, AGC natural-flake graphite.

I was able to take a number of photographs during my visit, which are included below (click on the thumbnails to enlarge the images). Also included is a separator / electrode cross-section schematic, and other images produced by EngineeringCo and AGC that were verified during my visit.

Nevertheless, I had the opportunity to discuss a number of topics of wider interest to the use of natural graphite in LIBs with a senior scientist at EngineeringCo (whom I will call Dr. X), who is well known by many in the graphite industry and beyond, for his experience and expertise in the processing of graphite, anode production for LIBs and LIB prototyping and validation.

Regardless of the ultimate application, the early stages of natural-graphite processing are generally the same. The graphite ore is mined or excavated, and then crushed so that the contained graphite flakes can then be concentrated, via flotation. The crushed ore is typically placed into water with an additive such as pine oil or kerosene, which creates a thin film on the surface of the water. Graphite flakes are hydrophobic and lighter-weight, and being repelled by the water they remain at the surface, while the heavier rock matter simply falls to the bottom of the flotation cell. The result of these and associated processes is run-of-mine (ROM) concentrate, and historically has been the goal of most graphite juniors, looking to produce a saleable material as a result of their endeavors.

More recently, companies like AGC have realized that the way to maximize the value of their graphite ores is to apply secondary processes to this ROM concentrate, with the goal of producing so-called battery-grade graphite for LIBs. These secondary processes include purification, micronizing, spheroidizing and coating, to produce CSPG, a high-value graphite product that can be used for the anodes in LIBs. Each of these steps requires careful optimization, with the process parameters being tailored to the unique characteristics of each specific ROM concentrate.
Read the full article →

{ 1 comment }

A Visit To The Alabama Graphite Coosa Project

by Gareth Hatch on February 15, 2016 · 1 comment

in Graphite, Site Visits, USA

In October 2015 I paid a visit to the Coosa graphite project in the USA, being developed by Alabama Graphite Corp. (TSX.V:ALP, OTCQX:ABGPF) in Coosa County, Alabama.

Located in a past-producing region of the state known as the Alabama Graphite Belt, the Coosa project is approximately 50 miles south-southeast of Birmingham and 20 miles north of Montgomery. The project is also 30 miles northeast of the Bama Mine project, also owned by Alabama Graphite Corp (AGC).

20 miles to the northeast, AGC has its field office and core storage facility in Sylacauga, which I also had the chance to visit. Sylacauga is home to the world's largest marble quarry, and the source of the pure, white marble used in the construction of many famous buildings and memorials in the USA, including the US Supreme Court building, the US Capitol rotunda and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

I was hosted during my visit by Don Baxter, President & CEO of AGC, Rick Keevil, VP for Project Development and Jesse Edmondson, Project Geologist for Coosa and also Director of Community Relations.

Per the October 2015 NI 43-101 guided mineral-resource estimate for the Coosa deposit, at a 1% graphitic carbon (Cg) cut-off grade, 78.5 megatonnes (Mt) of the resource is at the Indicated level @ 2.39% Cg and 79.4 Mt is at the Inferred level @ 2.56% Cg. This results in an estimated 3.9 Mt of Cg present in the mineral resource at Coosa. The resource estimate was based on the results of 109 drill holes totaling 7,900 m (25,900 feet) and 9 trenches totaling 1,150 m (3,800 feet).

Graphite development companies typically report on the distribution of flakes sizes in their graphite deposits. Metallurgical results announced by the company in May 2015, and subsequently reported in the PEA report indicate that approximately 25-30% of the graphite present at Coosa is in the form of large flakes (+80 mesh or >180 μm). However, as we will see later in this article, AGC's intended approach to production potentially negates the need for significant quantities of large-flake graphite to be present in the deposit, since the company's plan is to process graphite across the range of flake sizes, into higher-value engineered graphite products.

Read the full article →

{ 1 comment }

October 2015 Updates To The TMR Advanced Rare-Earth Projects Index

by Gareth Hatch November 22, 2015

I recently updated the TMR Advanced Rare-Earth Projects Index, to reflect project updates since the last edition. The effective date of the latest edition is November 19, 2015. The specifics: On October 6, 2015, Hastings Technology Metals Limited (ASX:HAS) (formerly Hastings Rare Metals Limited) announced an updated JORC-guided mineral-resource estimate for the Yangibana project in

Read the full article →

September 2015 Updates To The TMR Advanced Graphite Projects Index

by Gareth Hatch September 23, 2015

I recently updated the TMR Advanced Graphite Projects Index, to reflect two new and two updated mineral-resource estimates, announced since the last update. The effective date of the updates is September 22, 2015. The specifics: On March 17, 2015, Graphite One Resources Inc. (TSX.V:GPH) announced an updated NI 43-101-guided resource estimate for its Graphite Creek

Read the full article →

August 2015 Updates To The TMR Advanced Rare-Earth Projects Index

by Gareth Hatch September 21, 2015

I recently updated the TMR Advanced Rare-Earth Projects Index, to reflect project updates since the last edition. The effective date of the latest edition is September 10, 2015. The specifics: Per a recent report from PWC, acting as the court-appointed monitor for the Sale or Investor Solicitation Process for Great Western Minerals Group Ltd (TSX.V:GWG),

Read the full article →

July 2015 Updates To The TMR Advanced Rare-Earth Projects Index

by Gareth Hatch August 3, 2015

I recently updated the TMR Advanced Rare-Earth Projects Index, to reflect project updates since the last edition. The effective date of the latest edition is August 2, 2015. The specifics: On May 11, 2015, Ucore Rare Metals Inc. (TSX.V:UCU) announced an updated NI 43-101-guided mineral-resource estimate for the Bokan-Dotson Ridge project in the USA. According

Read the full article →

March 2015 Updates To The TMR Advanced Rare-Earth Projects Index

by Gareth Hatch April 6, 2015

I recently updated the TMR Advanced Rare-Earth Projects Index, to reflect project updates since the last edition. The effective date of the latest edition is April 2, 2015. The specifics: In November 2014, Mineração Serra Verde, a subsidiary of Mining Ventures Brasil, completed a pre-feasibility study for the Serra Verde project in Brazil, which included

Read the full article →

December 2014 Updates To The TMR Advanced Rare-Earth Projects Index

by Gareth Hatch January 21, 2015

I recently updated the TMR Advanced Rare-Earth Projects Index, to reflect project updates since the last edition. The effective date of the latest edition is January 21, 2015. The specifics: On December 17, 2014, Tantalus Rare Earths AG (F:TAE) announced an updated NI 43-101-guided mineral-resource estimate for the Tantalus project in Madagascar. According to the

Read the full article →

January 2015 Updates To The TMR Advanced Graphite Projects Index

by Gareth Hatch January 18, 2015

I recently updated the TMR Advanced Graphite Projects Index, to reflect three new and two updated mineral-resource estimates, announced since the last update. The effective date of the updates is January 15, 2015. The specifics: On October 17, 2014, Sovereign Metals Limited (ASX:SVM) announced a maiden JORC-guided resource estimate for its Duwi graphite project in

Read the full article →

China Has Not Relinquished Control Of Its Rare-Earth Exports

by Gareth Hatch January 6, 2015

Usually around this time of year I would have already posted an update on the export quotas issued by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) to rare-earth element (REE) producers in China.

Not so this year.

The twice yearly announcements on the specifics of the allocations were always met with a degree of interest that far outweighed their real importance. It was the illusory nature of the export quotas and the complete misreading of the 2010 quota allocations, by entities outside of China, that led to the completely unnecessary, yet unfortunately destructive run up (and subsequent crash) in prices for these materials in 2010 and 2011.

On December 31, 2014 MOFCOM announced that dozens of products previously subject to export quotas would instead now be subject to an export licensing regime. Perhaps the fact that REEs can be found cheek to jowl alongside live cattle, frozen meat, tungsten, sand, motorcycles and paraffin, to name but a few of the commodities listed, will finally correct the notion that some folks have of REEs as unique, precious snowflakes in the grand scheme of nefarious Chinese strategy. Or perhaps not...

Read the full article →