High priority Alaska graphite project
Graphite Creek now considered eligible for Fast-41 permitting Metal Tech News – January 20, 2021
Last updated 7/10/2022 at 3:02pm
With graphite being a vital ingredient in the lithium-ion batteries storing clean but intermittent wind and solar energy, as well as powering the burgeoning electric vehicle sector, the U.S. Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC) has designated Graphite Creek as a high-priority infrastructure project.
This designation means the world-class graphite project in western Alaska qualifies for Fast-41 – short for Title 41 of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act – a program established by the Obama administration to improve the timeliness, predictability, and transparency of federal environmental review and authorization process for domestic infrastructure projects.
FPISC is an independent federal entity created to coordinate the permitting of eligible Fast-41 projects across different federal agencies, thereby streamlining and shortening the overall process for large infrastructure projects that are eligible for the program.
After consulting the federal Office of Management and Budget and Council of Environmental Quality, FPISC determined that Graphite Creek "clearly qualifies" as a Fast-41 project. The federal permitting steering council informed Graphite One Inc., the company advancing Graphite Creek, of the designation on Jan. 15.
"We see the fact that our project qualifies under the FPISC's Renewable Energy and Manufacturing sectors as recognition of graphite as essential to a sustainable U.S. infrastructure supply chain," said Graphite One CEO Anthony Huston.
Due largely to its use as the anode material in lithium-ion batteries, the annual demand for graphite is expected to climb at least 10-fold over the next decade.
More information on the forecast demand for EV battery materials can be read at Electric mobility metals inflection point in the current edition of Metal Tech News.
According to "Mineral Commodity Summaries 2020," an annual report published by the United States Geological Survey, there are currently no graphite mines in the U.S., leaving American manufacturers reliant on overseas supplies for the roughly 60,000 metric tons of natural graphite currently consumed in the U.S.
With 5.7 million metric tons of quality graphite outlined so far, the Graphite Creek deposit about 35 miles north of Nome, Alaska could provide a reliable domestic supply of this increasingly needed battery material for decades to come.
A 2017 preliminary economic assessment 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 in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries and 13,500 metric tons of purified graphite powders annually.
Understanding that this project could be an important link at the beginning of the U.S. lithium-ion battery supply chain, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy nominated Graphite Creek as a as high-priority infrastructure project to be eligible for Fast-41.
"Designating the Graphite Creek Project as a high-priority infrastructure project will send a strong signal that the U.S. intends to end the days of our 100% import-dependency for this increasingly critical mineral," he penned in his nomination letter.
With Graphite Creek being granted this designation, Graphite One has the option to list the project on the Federal Permitting Dashboard, which was established by FPISC to coordinate and track the permitting process of Fast-41 projects.
While being eligible for Fast-41 could streamline permitting, it does not remove any of the stringent environmental standards, or the permitting and stakeholder engagement requirements, that come with permitting a mine project in the U.S.
Publicly available online, the Federal Permitting Dashboard allows all stakeholders to track the federal government's environmental review and authorization processes, providing an added layer of transparency alongside the coordination offered by FPISC.
With Graphite Creek not yet ready to enter the permitting process, Graphite One told Metal Tech News that it has some time to decide whether to list the high-priority project on the dashboard.