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PDAC 2018 Highlights Graphite as a key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles

By Frank Giorno

Mar 30, 2018

While gold copper zinc silver and base metals are the usual stars of mining conventions like PDAC 2018, the last couple of years so-called green minerals like cobalt, lithium and this year graphite have drawn considerable attention.

Why? Because those three elements are critical for the development of rechargeable electric car batteries that poor the electric car of the near future. Some are already on the road, but more quantities of these elements are needed if the electric car is to be the dominate vehicle on the streets.

This year, Gregory Bowe, President and CEO of Northern Graphite, that is working to bring into production their Bissett Creek mine off Highway 17 near Renfrew Ontario gave a presentation at one of the PDAC 2018 Investor Forums.


Northern Graphite Corporation holds 100 percent ownership in the Bissett Creek mining leases and surrounding claims which are located 17km from the Trans Canada Highway between the cities of Ottawa and North Bay, Ontario, Canada. The site can be accessed by a good quality all weather road and labor, power, rail lines and water are all readily available.  The project is five hours from the port of Montreal.

 “Bissett Creek not only has attractive economics at current prices but the multi phase development approach reduces upfront capital requirements and provides the ability to expand as demand from the battery and EV markets grow”, commented Gregory               Bowes, CEO.                     He added: “the   Project also has very low marketing risk because it is “right- sized” for the                  current               market and production will        be almost entirely large/XL/XXL flake with no              fines.”             


Graphite and diamonds are the only two naturally formed polymers of carbon. Graphite is essentially a two-dimensional, planar crystal structure whereas diamonds are a three-dimensional structure. Graphite is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity and has the highest natural strength and stiffness of any material. It maintains its strength and stability to temperatures more than 3,600°C and is very resistant to chemical attack. At the same time, it is one of the lightest of all reinforcing agents and has high natural lubricity.

What is graphite used for?

Traditional demand for graphite is largely tied to the steel industry where it is used as a liner for ladles and crucibles, as a component in bricks which line furnaces (“refractories”), and as an agent to increase the carbon content of steel. In the automotive industry it is used in brake linings, gaskets and clutch materials. Graphite also has a myriad of other uses in batteries, thermal management in consumer electronics, lubricants, fire retardants, and reinforcements in plastics.

The market for graphite is approximately one million tonnes per year of which 60 percent is flake and 40 percent is amorphous. Amorphous graphite is a low value, low growth product. Only flake graphite which can be economically rounded and upgraded to 99.95 percent purity is suitable for making Li ion batteries. The graphite market is far larger than the markets for magnesium, molybdenum cobalt, tungsten, lithium and rare earths combined.

Industrial demand for flake graphite was growing at about 5 per cent per annum up until 2012 due to the ongoing industrialization of China, India and other emerging economies. Demand for amorphous graphite is declining. Since then flake demand has levelled off or declined, largely due to the slowdown in China and a lack of growth elsewhere in the world. The “blue sky” for the graphite industry is the incremental demand being created by several green initiatives including Li ion batteries, fuel cells, flow batteries and nuclear energy. Many of these applications have the potential to consume more graphite that all current uses combined.

In the last five or six years for example, lithium ion batteries have gone from a small part of the graphite market to where they now account for about a third of demand. The lithium ion battery industry continues to grow at over 20% per year even with the slow adoption of EVs.