Graphite One project goes super critical
DPA designation signals strategic value of graphite to U.S. Metal Tech News – April 6, 2022
Last updated 4/5/2022 at 6:03pm
Graphite One Inc.'s plans to establish a complete domestic supply chain for the advanced graphite materials for electric vehicle batteries was bolstered by President Joe Biden's decision to use the Defense Production Act to boost American supplies of critical battery materials.
On March 31, the President signed a memorandum that orders the Pentagon to utilize Defense Production Act Title III funding to establish and expand upon sustainable and responsible production of the battery materials – such as cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese, and nickel – critical to America's transition to electric vehicles charged with low-carbon energy.
"Giving graphite and the battery materials the DPA Title III designation – as 'essential to national defense' – is a strong signal that the full force of the U.S. federal government will now be behind domestic development of these 'super-criticals,'" said Graphite One President and CEO Anthony Huston. "With the USGS recognizing Graphite One's Alaska deposit just last month as being America's largest known graphite deposit, and adding to that our plan to produce battery-ready anode material, Graphite One is ready to answer the call, and create a complete advanced graphite supply chain solution for the U.S."
The batteries powering midsize sedans such as the standard range version of a Tesla Model 3, which has a 60-kilowatt-hour battery and a range of about 300 miles, require about 145 pounds of graphite. Using this as an average, roughly 1.3 billion lb (592,000 metric tons) of graphite would be needed each year for EVs in the United States by 2030 to achieve the Biden administration and automaker's aspirations that half of all vehicles sold in the U.S. be electric by the end of the decade.
Globally, annual EV sales are expected to hit 30 million by 2030, which would require around 4.35 billion lb (2 million metric tons) of graphite. This is roughly double 1 million metric tons of worldwide graphite production for all industries during 2021. Around 82% of this production was in China, and 0% was in the U.S.
Graphite One intends to help establish a complete graphite supply chain in the U.S. that would include a mine at its enormous Graphite Creek deposit in Alaska, along with processing and recycling facilities in the state of Washington.
This supply chain would begin at Graphite Creek, a world-class deposit in Alaska that 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 2017 preliminary economic assessment outlined plans for a mine at this deposit that would produce roughly 60,000 metric tons of 95% graphite concentrate each year, which would be shipped to a separate processing facility the company plans to build in a location with clean, affordable energy.
In March, Graphite One confirmed that Washington, a state with plentiful low-cost and low-carbon hydroelectricity, is to be the locale of this second link in its graphite anode material supply chain.
Based on the mining rates envisioned in the PEA, this facility would produce 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.
A more definitive plan of the mining and processing rates will be included in a prefeasibility study currently underway.
In the meantime, Graphite One is looking to establish a lithium-ion battery recycling facility alongside its proposed graphite processing plant in Washington.
"With this new proposed recycling division joining our Graphite Creek mine and Advanced Graphite Materials Manufacturing Plant as the third link, Graphite One plans to bring the full circular economy to the U.S. graphite supply chain," said Huston.
On April 4, the company reported that it has entered into a preliminary agreement with Lab 4 Inc. to collaboratively design, develop, and build the recycling facility.
With a minerals and materials processing laboratory in Nova Scotia, Canada, Lab 4 provides laboratory and engineering support to mining companies with a focus on the processing and recycling of graphite, manganese, and other battery metals.
"The return of battery materials within the industry, or to new uses and applications, is critical to the materials supply chain as the electrification of everything accelerates," said Lab 4 CEO Ian Flint. "Adding recycling to renewable materials development is the missing piece in a true circular economy. We look forward to a partnership that sets a new standard for the renewable energy sector."
By adding a recycling facility at the nascent stages of both its own project development and the EV revolution in America, Graphite One hopes to make the "super critical" lithium battery materials sector more robust and sustainable.
"When you're in the renewable energy space, you've got to think through the whole lifecycle – where will EV and lithium-ion batteries go when they are no longer useful? It can't be to the landfill. That's not responsible. Battery materials are simply too critical and too scarce to let them go to waste," Huston said. "That all points to recycling battery materials – and for Graphite One, this pointed us to Lab 4 and their ground-breaking work to recycle these materials right back into our planned manufacturing plant."