Alaska Native Corp backs Graphite One
Metal Tech News - September 5, 2023
Last updated 9/7/2023 at 4:15am
BSNC investment provides funding for all-American graphite supply chain and signals local AK Native support for mine.
As a signal of strong local backing for Graphite One Inc.'s vision to establish an all-American supply chain for the graphite needed for lithium batteries powering the energy transition, Bering Straits Native Corp. is making an up to US$10.4 million strategic investment into the company.
"This is not just an investment in Graphite One, it is a long-term investment in our region," said Dan Graham, interim president and CEO at Bering Straits Native Corp.
Bering Straits Native Corp. is the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) regional corporation for an area of far western Alaska that encompasses the Seward Peninsula, where Graphite One's world-class Graphite Creek mine project is located.
"We at BSNC have watched for years as Graphite One has worked to advance the Graphite Creek project and become a friendly neighbor in the region," Graham added.
As BSNC kept a watchful eye, Graphite One systematically explored the enormous potential of what the U.S. Geological Survey considers "the largest known flake graphite resource in the USA and is among the largest in the world."
As it delineated a world-class deposit about 37 miles north of the historic gold mining town of Nome, Alaska, Graphite One began to formulate plans to establish a mine there that will feed materials to an advanced graphite materials processing and recycling facility the company intends to build in Washington state.
This vision of a domestic supply chain that would provide advanced graphite products critical to clean energy, technology, and the military attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Defense.
In July, DOD awarded Graphite One US$37.5 million to help with the work needed to complete a feasibility study for this advanced graphite material supply chain.
Now, BSNC is throwing its support behind Graphite One's vision with an initial US$2 million investment in the company and an option to invest an additional US$8.4 million.
"After careful review and many long discussions, we believe Graphite One shares our values of land stewardship and providing benefits to the region. Our investment in Graphite One is about providing opportunities for BSNC shareholders and being proactive about the future of our region," said Bering Strait Native Corp. Chair Cindy Massie.
Graphite Creek criticality rises
Protruding from the side of the Kigluaik Mountains on Alaska's Seward Peninsula, the more than 10-mile-long Graphite Creek deposit has long been known as a potentially enormous source of graphite, and even offered a domestic supply of this critical mineral during World War I and II.
The importance of this western Alaska graphite deposit has risen alongside the global transition to EVs charged with low-carbon energy, which is driving unprecedented new demand for this single largest ingredient in lithium-ion batteries.
With more than 30 million EVs expected to hit global highways each year by 2030 and upwards of 45 million by 2045, the U.S. Department of Energy anticipates that the transition to e-mobility will require up to eight times more graphite than was mined globally during 2022.
"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 penned in the graphite section of its 2023 Critical Materials Assessment.
The U.S., however, has no domestic graphite mines, leaving the nation heavily dependent on imports from China, which currently produces more than 60% of the world's mined graphite and nearly 90% of advanced anode material.
This heavy reliance on China for a mineral essential to America's clean energy transition is why the Energy Department ranks graphite near the top of its list of critical minerals, and the Pentagon is supporting Graphite One with a US$37.5 million Defense Production Act Title III grant.
Unanimous BSNC support
The growing need for graphite and Graphite One's vision to responsibly meet that demand with a supply chain that begins in the Bering Straits region played into the BSNC board's unanimous decision to invest US$2 million to acquire 2.8 million Graphite One shares at C97 cents each.
"Graphite One has told us of its intent to develop an environmentally responsible project and provide an exciting economic opportunity for the region that hopefully will play a crucial role in the nation's transition to a clean energy future. This is at the heart of our Board's unanimous support of the project," Graham said.
BSNC also has the option to acquire an additional $6 million worth of Graphite One shares over the next year. If the Alaska Native corporation fully participates in its option and exercises all warrants associated with the share purchase, its total investment into Graphite One would be US$10.4 million.
For Graphite One, the financial backing from BSNC is critical to its vision. More importantly, though, is the signal of support by a corporation whose shareholders are entirely made up of the Alaska Native people who have called the Bering Straits region home for millennia.
"BSNC is a dynamic development force in Alaska, with an unwavering commitment to community and heritage," said Graphite One President and CEO Anthony Huston. "All of us at G1 look forward to partnering with BSNC on ways to make our project a model not just for Alaska – but for a nation that is navigating the transition to a new energy future."