Northern has developed a proprietary process for producing spherical graphite from the graphite concentrate that will be produced from the Company’s 100% owned Bissett Creek deposit. Northern’s spherical graphite has already been evaluated in Lithium/graphite battery test cells and the performance of these cells demonstrated that it meets or exceeds current commercial performance requirements and that Bissett Creek graphite does not contain any impurities that negatively affect cell performance.
Hazen Research has been retained to confirm laboratory results using bench scale models of commercial purification equipment that will be employed in the full scale process. It is anticipated that this program will be followed by a pilot plant test and then engineering and design work to define the capital and operating costs of a commercial facility to upgrade Bissett Creek graphite concentrate into spherical graphite.
The National Research Council of Canada has been engaged to carry out ongoing testing of Northern’s spherical graphite in Lithium/graphite batteries in order to optimize and customize its performance to meet the specifications of potential offtake and strategic partners and customers. NRC has advanced battery testing capabilities with various chemistries and is the Government of Canada’s premier organization for research and development.
Gregory Bowes, Chief Executive Officer, commented that: "Value added processing such as the manufacture of spherical graphite is a big part of Northern Graphite’s strategy to create value for shareholders." He added that: "By developing our own process we can ensure that it is optimized for our production, we can develop our own intellectual property and we do not have to pay royalties to third parties."
Spherical graphite is used to make the anodes in Li ion batteries and is manufactured from the flake concentrate produced by graphite mining operations. The upgrading process consists of micronizing the graphite flakes, rounding them to create a spherical or "potato" shape, and purifying them to increase the carbon content to 99.95%. Almost all spherical graphite is currently produced in China and purified using strong acids which results in large volumes of acidic and toxic waste. This method is not environmentally sustainable as the demand for, and production of, Li ion batteries increases. It is also inconsistent with the green energy objectives of the hybrid and all electric car industry. The high quality and purity of graphite from Bissett Creek has enabled the Company to develop a proprietary purification technology that is environmentally friendly and sustainable. The objective is to provide Li ion battery manufacturers with a stable, secure source of supply that is produced in an environmentally acceptable manner.
Don Baxter, P.Eng, President of the Company and a "Qualified Person" under 43-101, is responsible for and has reviewed and approved the technical content of this press release.
The Graphite Market
Graphite prices have increased substantially due to the ongoing modernization of China and other emerging economies which has resulted in strong demand from traditional steel and automotive markets. In addition, new applications such as lithium ion batteries, vanadium redox batteries, fuel cells and nuclear power have the potential to create significant incremental demand growth. The manufacturing of Li ion batteries requires up to 30 times more graphite than lithium and their use in the growing EV/HEV market is expected to require significant increases in graphite production. However, graphite production and exports from China, which produces 70% of the world’s supply, are expected to decline and an export tax and a licensing system have been instituted. As a result, both the European Union and the United States have declared graphite a supply critical mineral.
Northern Graphite Corporation is a Canadian company that has a 100% interest in the Bissett Creek graphite deposit located in eastern Ontario. Northern Graphite is well positioned to benefit from this compelling supply/demand dynamic with a high purity, large flake, scalable deposit that is located close to infrastructure. A bankable final Feasibility Study ("FS") is expected to be completed before the end of the second quarter, 2012. Permitting is expected to be completed by the end of the summer following which mine construction can commence, subject to the results of the FS and financing.