Northern Graphite and Graphite One lead the graphite sector in the first week of November
Graphite Market Review — Northern Graphite Corporation (TSXV: NGC | OTCQX: NGPHF) was one of the few market movers for the week ending on November 7, 2014, gaining 11.84% in Toronto and 9.45% at the OTCQX. The gains contrast with the combined average performance for Graphite companies (members of InvestorIntel) of -2.19%. Graphite One (TSXV: GPH | OTCQX: GPHOF) rose 4.35% in Toronto and 16% at the OTC; Great Lakes Graphite (TSXV: GLK) gained rose 7.69%, Focus Graphite rose 5.88% in Toronto and 5.26% at the OTC while Deveron Resources gained 8.82%. Overall, the fundamentals of graphite demand have not changed and none of the cited companies published any significant news to warrant a shift in market performance, whether up or down. Indeed, the lukewarm performance had far more to do with falling industrial metal prices at the London Metal Exchange, reflecting weaker economic signals from China. Meanwhile, more jobs were created in the US, which strengthened the US Dollar, hurting commodities.
The October economic indicators from China were lower compared to September, suggesting that the People’s Republic continues to struggle – relatively speaking of course – to meet economic growth targets. Analysts are betting that the government will ultimately take further measures to support the economy, as GDP predictions growth are at risk. Meanwhile, the economy in the Eurozone has remained under tremendous pressure. The EU Commission has lowered its growth forecasts for this year and the current year, the euro against the US dollar continued again under pressure. The US dollar index rose again significantly, making commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies, which in turn affects demand – lowering it. Even zinc, for which a demand bottleneck is expected in the coming years, suffered in the markets because of a demand problem in China – reflected by sharply lower sales of zinc intensive e-bikes.
Graphite is one of those raw materials that, even if needed in small amounts, are expensive because of the special property requirements. Graphite is still expected to experience strong demand growth in the coming years. Similar to rare earths, China is the market leader in the market for graphite, which is there but mainly used in steel production. Graphite is also needed to make graphene. Such graphite requires a purity of more than 99% and a handful of producers can deliver it. Apart from graphene, graphite is generating considerable interest and demand because of its use in Lithium-ion batteries, better known as Li-ion batteries. Northern Minerals was, as noted above, one of the few market gainers last week. At the end of October, Northern launched a lithium ion battery (“LiB”) research and testing facility to develop and test natural graphite based anode materials for LiBs aimed at improving battery performance, reducing costs and reducing the environmental impact of anode manufacturing. The facility will be available on normal commercial terms to any company, including Northern’s competitors – so long as results are shared with the public.
One of those competitors is Focus Graphite, which last week signed a Pre-Development Agreement with the Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam First Nation with respect to the graphite Lac Knife project. This is very important because failing to secure such agreements can affect deeply affect a project, delaying or preventing governments from granting the relevant permits. Alabama Graphite, meanwhile, announced the conclusion of a warrants purchase in the amount of USD$ 2.1 million.
Alabama Graphite now has a zero balance debt and it plans to use the remaining proceeds from the voluntary exercise of the Warrants for further exploration and development of the Coosa and Bama Mine Projects in Alabama (USA), initiating a preliminary economic assessment of the Coosa project to generate working capital.
Great Lakes announced the use of a more accurate “modified infrared (IR) graphite concentration test method to achieve a high level of accuracy. Great Lakes is moving aggressively and it has set some important targets for the next few months with the resource estimate being the immediate priority. The Company wants to move fast enough to overtake its peers to become the first producer of graphite in North America.
Graphite One completed another drill campaign at its Graphite Creek deposit, which is claimed to be the largest flake graphite deposit in North America; certainly, it is one of the most significant large flake deposits in the United States. Having completed the drilling campaign, Graphite One can now proceed toward completing the preliminary economic assessment.
Australia’s Discovery Africa, focused on developing graphite at its Nachingwea graphite project in Tanzania, announced the receipt of a mining license covering an additional 103 km2 of exploration territory. The samples from this area are very promising, having revealed 7.22% and 5.55% of total carbon-graphite, as announced on October 30. The Company also has significant graphite assets in Uganda. Finally, Deveron Resources announced it would agree to option as much as a 100% stake in Greencastle Resources’ Rockstone property in northwest Ontario, which is also said to contain zinc. Northern Ontario has surprisingly good grades and varieties of graphite to offer at its Albany deposit. There is good reason to believe that Deveron may find its own world-class deposit featuring the kind of grades and varieties that lend themselves well to battery and graphene production.
Graphite Market Review is a special weekly feature on InvestorIntel sponsored by Alabama Graphite Corp. (TSXV: ALP | OTCQX: ABGPF).