Focus on steady course to production for highest purity flake graphite
March 19, 2014 — Don Baxter, President and Chief Operating Officer of Focus Graphite (‘Focus’, TSXV: FMS; OTCQX: FCSMF; FSE: FKC), a graphite play in one of North America’s most prolific graphite zones in Lac Knife, Quebec, spoke to Tracy Weslosky, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of InvestorIntel about some of the misunderstandings associated with graphite, starting with the issue of grade.
Don said that when looking at graphite, investors should consider it in a different way than other metals and minerals, because while “the grade is important, you also have to look at what’s in the rock and the physical characteristics of the flake; what’s in the rock to start with and what you can put in the bag to sell. That’s a key component in evaluating any graphite property. So, if the Company is not talking about flake, size distribution and carbon grade, they are n missing a big piece of the puzzle.”
As for grade, Focus’s particular advantage is that the graphite found at its Lac Knife property can be refined to very high grades of graphitic carbon content, achieving up to 98 carbon even with the finer mesh material (-100 mesh), which is typically difficult to process above 90 carbon, Focus can still get it to 98. Don says this “is unheard of in the industry”. Therefore, Focus will be able to target high grade end users directly thanks to the fact that some 86% of the reserves are battery grade, appealing to a number of international potential customers, developing the next generation of Li-ion batteries, which are demanding at least 99.5% carbon levels of purity.
One of the main physical characteristics of the graphite from Lac Knife is that the waste particles are on the surface rather than ingrained within the layers. This enables Focus to use its special polishing techniques to “clean the flake up very nicely”, according to Don. Focus’s strategy will be to start with 98 carbon graphite and then purify it to 99.95%. Now, why are batteries such an important component for batteries? In fact, contrary to popular belief, there can be up to ten times more graphite than lithium in the Lithium-Ion batteries (Li-ion).
This means that “the supply critical material for Li-ion batteries is graphite,” which will continue to be the material of choice for batteries, despite the fact that many alternatives have been considered or tested. Only synthetic graphite has been used so far for this purpose; however, this kind of graphite at battery grades can cost up to USD$ 20,000/ton. Coated spherical and natural graphite, however, costs some USD$ 8,000/ton.
Apart from the evident price advantage, natural graphite also offers performance improvements. Focus will now complete the mine and plant design and the processing of the graphite flake by the summer of this year after which the mine construction and engineering process will begin. Don says they should be “shovel ready” by the end of 2014 as Focus, under Don’s guidance, proceeds along a steady stream toward production.
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