Rise in lithium-ion batteries driving demand for graphite

March 4, 2014

As more uses for lithium-ion batteries are found so to will the demand for the essential elements of the batteries, including graphite.

The Associated Press reported that demand for lithium-ion batteris, coupled with a decreasing supply from China has tipped off a gold rush of sorts for graphite.

Currently, the United States imports all of its natural graphite leading to a boom in exploration for graphite deposits.

From technological to industrial, the mineral's products comprise a $13 billion industry, and firms see opportunity in producing high-purity, large-flake graphite for "lithium-ion batteries and other new renewable energy forms," Don Hains, a specialist with Watts, Griffis and McOuat Limited, a geological and mining consultant firm in Toronto told The Associated Press.

China, meanwhile, appears to have eased its grip on world production, creating an opening that hasn't existed since the mid-'90s, mining companies say.

China accounted for 750 Mt (826 million st) out of a global total of 1.1 Gt (1.2 billion st) in 2012, the most recent year records were available, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. But Chinese output that year was down 50 Mt (55 million st) from 2011 as the government closed mines for environmental issues and resource protection, according to the USGS.

Also, the growth of China's steel industry has boosted its domestic demand for industrial-grade graphite, used in foundries for its heat-resistant proprieties, leading to a new graphite export tax, experts say.

The developments contributed to a sharp rise in the price of large-flake graphite, peaking at $3,000 per ton in early 2012. The price has since dropped back to about $1,300 per ton, but economic optimism has remained.

In Alaska, a claim north of Nome on the slopes of the Kiglauik Mountains is being explored by Vancouver, British Columbia-based Graphite One Resources.

A recent development has company officials particularly hopeful. Last month, they announced an increase in the amount of high-grade graphite they expect to be able to pull from the site. There are 285 million metric tons in a continuous three-mile stretch near the surface of the mountain, officials said. They expect an active mine would be sustainable for the next 20 years.

Several other companies are searching in the U.S. USA Graphite is exploring properties in Nevada. Graphite Corp. and Alabama Graphite Corp. are exploring in Alabama. And Graphite Corp. also has a prospect in Montana. Far more firms are searching in Canada.



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