Carving out a new niche in an era of advancing graphene development
While all currently available commercial vein-lump graphite is mined in Sri Lanka, many other areas are known to host the material in this form; including Borrowdale, UK, where the first pencils were cut directly from solid graphite veins.
Gratomic Inc. (TSXV: GRAT) (“Gratomic”) aims to join the fray with its Aukam deposit in Namibia (one of three graphite projects); the company has already signed a letter of intent to supply up to 5,000 tonnes of graphitic material every year, and last year produced 600 tonnes of graphitic material in only 2 months during a bulk sampling of dump material left behind as a result of highly selective past mining.
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The company also has an agreement with a leading European graphene manufacturer to turn graphite from the Aukam project into modified graphene, which will be field-tested by the manufacturer’s current customer base for mass-market high volume applications. So far, testing of the Aukam graphite shows that it is a premium quality crystalline vein graphite comparable in quality to other premium sources. This news will have been a significant contributor to the recent growth in the company’s value (see graph below).
The advanced materials aspect of the company’s vision is progressing rapidly. An industrial quantity of the product has already been converted into graphene for the manufacture of 400 tyres that have been terrain, track and road tested, with the results expected by the end of 1Q18. Should the outcome be positive, detailed planning will be initiated for installation of an integrated production plant that would provide nano engineered graphene derived directly from Aukam graphite for use in the large volume tire market. Gratomic are carving out a new niche in an era of advancing graphene development.
Furthermore, the graphite veins found at Aukam are up to 152 cm across. For comparison, Elcora’s projects feature widths of up to 66 cm. Even better, the company managed to produce their graphite material at an average cost of only $105/tonne during the bulk sampling program (way below average), and the expected capital cost is low (internally estimated at less than a million). Gratomic intends to use the cash flow from Aukam for expansion and acquisition, but is already generating highly positive results from other properties.
Results have been received from three of five holes and one of four trenches at the company’s Buckingham project in Quebec, and two graphitic zones, the Uncle Zone and the Case Zone have been discovered to date, with both zones showing high grade occurrences of disseminated flake and vein type graphite with assay values as high as 81.1% Cg. Initial crushing and flotation of two samples from the Uncle zone has achieved purity up to 99.4% Cg from a single flotation test without any process optimization.
Lump material is actually preferable to flake in many applications, with the most common market being electric foils (over 63% of the market). Of course, Li-ion batteries, refractories, electrodes, lubricants, and brake linings also consume large quantities of the material, and Gratomic is certainly going for the premium end of the market. The ability of this particular company to produce graphene products directly from its own ore material brings far more exposure to high future growth driven by advanced technologies. Gratomic’s most recent private placement finished oversubscribed, and the three month rally in the company’s share price has just broken above trend; it’s buy time.