Elcora Resources changes its name and focus on the Graphene revolution
October 15, 2014 — Tracy Weslosky, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher for InvestorIntel interviews Dr. Ian Flint, VP of processing and Refining at Elcora Resources (TSXV: ERA), a world renowned expert on graphene, about the kind of graphite that is best suited to produce graphene. The main advantage of Elcora’s Sri Lankan graphite is that it comes out of the ground already possessing purity levels of about 93%, presenting an orderly crystal like structure. This makes it easier to process, achieving very high purity levels. Indeed, Elcora’s goal was always to get into the graphene business and it searched for the right graphite to achieve this rather than stumbling as if its development were something of an afterthought. Elcora spent years developing the right process in order to purify the graphite while maintaining the unique and crucial structure of the crystals in good shape. On October 14, at the Company’s general meeting, Elcora Resources Corp. formally changed its name to ‘Graphene Corporation’, which should attract a lot of attention. The name is subject to regulatory approval but we can expect ‘Elcora’ to be phased out shortly.
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The key to achieving graphene is to derive as flat a layer, or surface, of graphite as possible. Graphene, after layer of graphite. Graphene Corp’s main advantage is that Sri Lankan graphite, when it comes out of the ground, prior to any processing, comes out as two products, lumps and chips, grading 93-99% graphitic carbon content coming out of the ground. Dr, Flint points out that: “their garbage is grading at over 80%,” which means that the graphite can be sold “as is” when it comes out of the ground. If even one crystal is bent or in some way out of shape, it will have a negative impact on the quality and amount of the resulting graphene. Therefore ‘flatness’ is key when it comes to graphene. This means that Elcora must adopt a ‘vertically integrated’ process, which allows for the entire graphite production activity to being fully or vertically integrated.
The fact that Elcora’s graphite comes from Sri Lanka is very significant because it tends to avoid bending the crystals. That, says Dr. Flint, solves by itself some 90% of the problem. Even before it reaches the processing stage, Elcora’s graphite starts out with very enviable purity levels. The technology that Elcora uses for graphene is not unique; what is unique is the way in which it has adapted the graphene production methods to meet client expectations as best as possible. Unfortunately, graphene is a word being touted by a number of companies, claiming to have reached scalability. There are two essential ways to produce graphene: the bottom-up approach and the top-down approach. In the first of these, carbon molecules are used to make graphene. In the top-down method, sheets of graphene are ‘shaved’ off the graphite. Elcora expects to set up a processing plant for graphene in the next six months – the same as what some mining companies would call a pilot plant. Its design involves a crushing grinding component and a quick flotation because the available electricity supply is insufficient to allow for greater capacity.
The worldwide production of naturally occurring graphite is around 1 million tons per year. The higher the graphite content, the higher the price. China controls 70 percent of the market, but much of this is low purity material that is best used for steel production. Flake graphite is highly sought because it can deliver up to 90 percent graphite content before special processing and it can be used for the anodes in lithium-ion batteries. The rarest is called Lump graphite (more than 90 percent graphite content), which is found only in Sri Lanka and is the kind that Elcora intends to produce, having acquired a 40 percent interest in Sakura-Mine in Sri Lanka, with a capacity of some 3.35 million tons of high grade graphite and about three hours away from the capital Colombo. Between 1974 and 1985 a total of 118,000 tons of lump graphite were produced here. The mine has a mining license and an exploration license that covers four square kilometers. Elcora will be able to ramp up production of very pure graphite from an existing underground mine and the subsequent processing due to the high purity of the graphite requires only a small investment and minimal expenses. According to internal estimates, the production and processing costs are expected to amount to approximately USD$ 1,250 per ton, while the potential selling price in the battery market could be as much as USD$ 8,000 per ton and its graphite is ideal because of its extremely high purity, making it very appealing for the processing into graphene without investing exorbitant sums.
Dr. Flint sees the main use of graphene in composite materials, strengthening plastics such as PET – which is used for normal plastic bottles – gaining far more strength with only 20% of the weight, an ideal proposition for the aerospace and the automotive industry. Elcora is well on its way to a vertically integrated graphite producer. Many graphs companies derive their material from different sources and have no control over the quality of the deposit. Elcora other hand, can ensure that the gains optimized directly from the mine and the product is strictly controlled. The money for the first processing system is already in place, thus the risk was significantly reduced. To access the entire interview video, click here
Full Disclosure: Elcora Resources — now Graphene Corporation, is an advertorial member of InvestorIntel.
Adrian Nixon is a Senior Editor at InvestorIntel. He began his career as a scientist and is a Chartered Chemist and Member of the Royal ... <Read more about Adrian Nixon>