Zenyatta’s Albany graphite deposit – purified to over 99.9%
Zenyatta Ventures Ltd. (TSXV: ZEN | OTCQX: ZENYF), has one of the purest deposits of graphite, one of the most unique resources on Earth. Their Albany hydrothermal graphite deposit is unlike the majority of graphite which is made synthetically from petroleum. There are very few natural sources of graphite, from which graphene is sourced. Yesterday the Thunder Bay based company announced that independent testing by SGS Engineering of their deposit confirmed that their graphite is over 99.9% pure.
The Albany deposit, located near Hearst ON, was only discovered in 2012, by accident, while Zenyatta was looking for copper-nickel. Though not producing yet, experts are excited about this deposit because graphite use has been limited by the low availability and the high price of manufacturing it.
Aubrey Eveleigh, President & CEO at Zenyatta, says in the release that, “SGS has developed a relatively benign purification process from an environmentally benign deposit to produce highly crystalline graphite exceeding 99.9% purity. Feedback from the market, including potential strategic partners in the CleanTech sector, suggests that environmental considerations are critical when sourcing raw materials for today’s high tech applications like energy storage.” Though graphite is used in electric car batteries, it is made from petroleum by-products. The energy intensive production of synthetic graphite is ironic considering that electric cars are thought to be environmentally friendly.
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The uses of graphite are sure to increase in part due to the rising integration of fuel cell technology in motor vehicles, telecom towers and material-handling equipment, which has created significant growth prospects for the fuel cell market. The world commercial fuel cell spending is expected to reach $11 billion by 2017 and then almost double through 2022 with portable fuel cells experiencing the fastest growth and motor vehicles following as a close second. In early 2014, Hyundai began leasing fuel cell vehicles to commercial customers, and a number of additional vehicle models are expected to become available from other major automakers by 2017.
Graphene is expected to address one of the major hurdles in fuel cell technology, which is the efficient separation of the electron of the hydrogen atom. Traditionally, platinum used to be the only catalyst utilized in fuel cells and for a time, mass market usage of fuel cells for commercial applications had been hindered by its high cost and the limited deposits of platinum.
The uses for graphene have been even more limited, as it was only discovered in 2003. However, increased availability of this resource could revolutionize materials as graphene is harder than diamond, yet since it is only an atom thick, it is flexible, and clear.
The largest graphite mines operating currently are in Sri Lanka. There are two, Kahatagaha Kolongaha, and Ragedara. Sri Lanka is the only country that produces lump and chippy dust graphite, the most valuable forms, which have sold for $1,990 per MT. This is significantly higher than prices for flake or amorphous graphite, the kinds made synthetically. The deposits in Sri Lanka are comparable geologically to Zenyatta’s discovery. However, in Sri Lanka it is a narrow vein deposit unlike Zenyatta’s hydrothermal breccia pipe graphite deposit.
Because of a vein width of only 5cm, the Sri Lankan mine can only take out 5,000 tonnes annually. Given the previous drill intersections of 100-200m, it’s possible that the Zenyatta project could produce up to 20 times the Sri Lankan operation’s output, or more. Zenyatta’s deposit is close to rails, highways, and the modern amenities found in Canada, while being in the mining friendly Arc of Fire region of Northern Ontario, north of Lake Superior.
The news released yesterday that Zenyatta’s deposit of graphite is of such high purity could help stimulate these uses of this hard to find, and hard to synthesize material. Graphite’s applications have been limited by the availability, but Zenyatta’s Albany deposit could change that.
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