ASX-listed Mineral Commodities has delivered a breakthrough in the purification of large flake graphite for use in battery anode material without the use of traditional and highly toxic hydrofluoric acid. Electrochemical testing of graphite sourced from ASX-listed Mineral Commodities’ Skaland graphite mining and processing operation in Norway has delivered a high-purity graphite anode material comparable in efficiency and capacity to industry standards.
The company believes Skaland to be one of the highest-grade operating flake graphite mines in the world and one of a handful of graphite producers in Europe.
Under the testing, uncoated spherical graphite from Skaland was purified using the company’s environmentally sustainable process that was recently developed by leading Australian government research organisation, CSIRO. To provide a reference, the process was also run on high-quality commercially available natural graphite anode material.
The innovative process utilises standard industrial reagents and critically avoids the use of toxic hydrofluoric acid. The traditional use of the toxic substance has meant most of the western world refuses to licence its use, leaving China as the world’s predominant hub for graphite purification. Mineral Commodities’ breakthrough could soon open an alternative path.
According to the company, testing of Skaland graphite through its proprietary process has now produced cells with an average first cycle efficiency of 90.6 per cent, almost identical to the commercial reference material of 90.7 per cent efficiency.
First cycle efficiency represents an important performance indicator where loss of lithium is measured in the formation of a protective layer on graphite anodes.
Steady-state capacity for Skaland anodes clocked in at 369 milliampere hours per gram in the testing, outperforming cells containing the commercial reference anode result of 363 mAh/g.
The extraordinary result is only barely below the theoretical maximum electrical energy storage capacity for graphite anodes of 372 mAh/g.
Mineral Commodities recently made the move to demerge its Norwegian assets into a separate entity, Ascent Graphite. The decision follows a strategic review as the company aims to unravel value from its Skaland graphite operation and access funding for the venture.
The new Norwegian incorporated company will look to develop a dedicated active anode materials plant to tap into the rampant electric vehicle battery and energy storage markets in Europe.
A key component of lithium-ion batteries is graphite – the primary material used for manufacture of battery anodes.
Interestingly, of all new cars registered in Norway this year, more than 90 per cent were electric.
These results demonstrate the favourable electrochemical properties of Skaland material and it appears that the environmentally sustainable purification process produces anode material with similar performance to commercially available anode materials from China.
With these results, we are demonstrating that CSIRO’s innovative new purification process can produce material that looks promising in today’s market but made using technology that is environmentally responsible and sustainable.
The company’s Skaland operation consists of the Traelen graphite mine, processing facilities and port infrastructure on the island of Senja in northern Norway.
The technological advancements have also been matched by a significant recent upgrade to its mineral resource estimate for Traelen, now standing at 1.84 million tonnes grading an impressive 23.6 per cent total graphitic carbon, or “TGC”.
The resource includes a maiden reserve of 640,000 tonnes going a spectacular 24.8 per cent TGC that, according to the company could potentially provide ore for 13 years of production.
A recent report by leading international provider of business research, BloombergNEF concluded that globally, some 58 per cent of all new manufactured vehicles by 2040 are projected to be either electric or hybrid.
According to the company, 90 per cent of the world’s natural flake graphite is sourced from only six countries. The entire global battery anode production industry is located in four nations and none in Europe, it added.
The technical breakthrough achieved by Mineral Commodities, in collaboration with CSIRO, appears to have propelled the company to the forefront of the green revolution and the global shift to electric mobilisation.