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By Shane Lasley
Metal Tech News 

DOD invests $37.5M in Alaska graphite

Metal Tech News - July 17, 2023


Last updated 8/8/2023 at 3:01pm

A colorful sunset behind commercial Quonset tents at graphite project in Alaska.

Graphite One Inc.

A colorful Alaska west coast sunset paints the backdrop for the expanded Graphite Creek exploration camp in western Alaska.

Graphite One will utilize DPA Title III funds to finalize a feasibility study to develop a mine at Graphite Creek deposit in Alaska.

To accelerate the development of a domestic supply chain for the enormous quantities of graphite needed in the lithium batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage, the U.S. Department of Defense has awarded Graphite One Inc. $37.5 million to help complete a feasibility study for an advanced graphite material supply chain that will begin at the Graphite Creek project about 35 miles north of Nome, Alaska.

"This investment to increase domestic capabilities for graphite exemplifies Industrial Base Policy's commitment to building a resilient industrial base to meet current and future national defense requirements," said Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Industrial Base Policy Laura Taylor-Kale.

The bolstering of America's graphite supply chain is in response to a 2022 order from the White House that directs the Pentagon to utilize an estimated $750 million of available Defense Production Act Title III funding to establish sustainable and responsible domestic production of strategic and critical minerals.

"The United States depends on unreliable foreign sources for many of the strategic and critical materials necessary for the clean energy transition – such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, and manganese for large-capacity batteries. Demand for such materials is projected to increase exponentially as the world transitions to a clean energy economy," the President penned in the memorandum.

Toward meeting the White House directive, the Pentagon is assisting Graphite One's Alaska subsidiary in developing a domestic advanced graphite supply chain solution anchored by Graphite Creek, home to the largest known graphite deposit on American soil.

"This Department of Defense grant underscores our confidence in our strategy to build a 100% U.S.-based advanced graphite supply chain – from mining to refining to recycling," said Graphite One CEO Anthony Huston. "The World Bank Group reports that the production of minerals, including graphite, could increase by nearly 500% by 2050, to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies."

Strategically important graphite

DOD's investment in Graphite One comes at a time when the U.S. military is increasingly turning to lithium-ion battery technologies.

The United States, however, is dependent on imports primarily from China for the graphite that goes into those batteries. And, the rapid transition to low-carbon energy and transportation is powering skyrocketing demand for new sources of this critical battery material.

Upon completion of an in-depth assessment of minerals critical to America's clean energy transition, U.S. Energy Department forecasts that global graphite demand could be more than eight times current production by 2035.

"In 2035, flake graphite demand for energy applications will account for 91% of the total demand, and EV batteries will account for 74% of the total demand," DOE inked in a draft Critical Materials Assessment published earlier this year.

There are currently no graphite mines in the U.S. This makes America's military and automakers highly dependent on China – which accounts for more than 60% of graphite mined globally and nearly 90% of advanced anode material production – for their supplies of this single largest ingredient in lithium-ion batteries.

So, securing a domestic graphite supply is strategically important to both the national defense and economic security of the United States.

This makes the Graphite Creek deposit on Alaska's west coast, which the USGS considers "the largest known flake graphite resource in the USA and is among the largest in the world," a highly strategic project for the Pentagon.

Matching world-class size with demand

Graphite One has already outlined more than 14 million metric tons of graphite at Graphite Creek, and this only accounts for a roughly three-mile subsection of a more than 10-mile-trend of graphite that has been traced across the Graphite Creek property.

According to a calculation completed in early 2023, Graphite Creek hosts 37.6 million metric tons of measured and indicated resources averaging 5.15% (1.9 million metric tons) graphite; plus 243.7 million metric tons of inferred resource averaging 5.14% (12.3 million metric tons) graphite.

A 2022 prefeasibility study for Graphite Creek envisioned a vertically integrated graphite supply chain that includes a mine that would produce an average of 51,813 metric tons of graphite concentrate per year and a processing and recycling facility in Washington that would upgrade the concentrates into 49,600 metric tons of spherical coated graphite that serves as the anode material in lithium-ion batteries and 25,400 metric tons of other advanced graphite products per year.

North American automakers and the U.S. government, however, want to see a Graphite One supply chain that better matches Graphite Creek's world-class potential to meet the rocketing demand being driven by the transition to EVs powered by clean energy.

The $37.5 million in DPA Title III funding awarded to Graphite One is half of the estimated $75 million needed to complete a feasibility study for the larger Graphite One supply chain.

Graphite One says the financial backing from the Pentagon is an extension of the strong support it has received from Alaska policymakers for its plan to establish Graphite Creek as the first link in the vertically integrated supply chain the company plans to develop.

Closeup of metallic silvery core from drilling high-grade graphite in Alaska.

Graphite One Inc.

Graphite Creek material similar to the sample contained in this drill core has been transformed into active anode material, the single largest ingredient in the lithium batteries powering EVs.

"All of us at Graphite One want to express our thanks for the strong support we've received from public officials whose mission it is to advance Alaska's and America's best interests," said Huston. "Senator Lisa Murkowski, the thought leader in Congress on critical minerals policy from her position on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee – and an early advocate of designating graphite and the other battery materials as Defense Production Act Title III materials; Senator Dan Sullivan, the driving force behind a U.S. Arctic Strategy from his position on the Senate Armed Services Committee with his past service as Alaska's Director of the Department of Natural Resources; Congresswoman Mary Peltola, member of the House Natural Resources Committee and a strong proponent of domestic resource development -- and of course the late Don Young, Dean of the House and from the very first, a strong supporter of our project.

"At the state level, Graphite One thanks Governor Mike Dunleavy for nominating us as a High-Priority Infrastructure Project, and for his commitment to making Alaska a leader in critical minerals development," the Graphite One founder and CEO added.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

With more than 15 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 907-726-1095


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