VANCOUVER, British Columbia, April 21, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The global graphite market will grow 3.7% a year for the next five years to reach $17.6 billion by 2020 states a recent report by Persistence Market Research – with the bulk of that demand for Large Flake Graphite widely used in the forever expanding technology sector in batteries and electronics from cellphones to electric cars.
Over 90% of today's graphite supply comes from China, and with the demand for this shiny black carbon rock increasing drastically so has the search for viable domestic graphite sources. A flurry of new mineral exploration has commenced with the goal of finding a domestic graphite source that can rival the current Chinese supply – fueled by plans from Tesla Motors to build a $5 billion Nevada based "Gigafactory" for production of batteries for use in both its cars and in rooftop solar systems sold by SolarCity. The Gigafactory is predicted to drive an increase of battery production by a factor of 50-fold by 2020. Altogether, the demand for flake graphite could increase by 40% by 2020.
Over the last year, mining exploration companies have rushed to acquire domestic past producing graphite mines and historic graphite discoveries that were not previously perceived as valuable before the recent technology boom of smartphones and electric cars, creating a whole new demand for graphite. One such mining company focused on its recent Quebec graphite discovery is Caribou King Resources. Publicly traded on the TSX Venture exchange under the symbol (TSX-V:CKR) Caribou King has recently discovered some of the highest grade graphite announced to date within this hotbed of exploration concentrated in Southern Quebec - Canada. More specifically, Caribou's Buckingham Graphite property has emerged as a promising future source of large flake graphite. Buckingham is comprised of eight mineral claim blocks within the Central Metasedimentary Graphite Belt that has hosted many recent graphite discoveries for a number of explorers.
Exposed graphite veins at the Buckingham property were recently tested for graphite content and returned up to 56% Cg (Graphitic Carbon) right out of the ground and were easily upgraded to over 99.9% Cg using a single flotation circuit and without expensive and timely processes such as acid leach or alkaline roast, commonly used to upgrade lower quality graphite to a useable purity level.
"The Buckingham property appears to host ultra-high grade vein-type graphite typically associated with China and Sri Lanka," stated Caribou Head Geologist Isabelle Robillard in an exclusive interview with Financial Press, "It is very rare to find this type of high quality graphite in North America. Our large flake graphite is over 99% pure after floatation, which means that we will not need further upgrading that is costly and environmentally harmful. This will have a significant positive effect on the economics of producing graphite from the Buckingham property."
Robillard states that the Buckingham project is close to the historical Walker mine which also produced vein-type graphite possibly in continuity with the Buckingham property. "The next step is to do a geophysical survey in order to further delineate the graphite veins," stated Robillard, "With high purity it doesn't take a lot of graphite material to make the operation profitable."
With 99%+ pure graphite garnering between $2000 - $3000 USD per ton with prices upwards of $10,000 per ton for "nuclear" grade purity, it doesn't take millions of tons to create a very profitable operation with low Operating expenses due to the Buckingham graphite veins running at surface.
Well-seasoned prospector Don McKinnon conducted the initial Buckingham survey with a 'Beep Mat' – a miniaturized electromagnetic survey instrument that detects conductive and magnetic outcrops up to 10 feet in depth. "We went onto the southeast portion of the property with the Beep Mat and it started screaming," stated McKinnon, Everywhere we dug we found graphite with enormous flakes plainly visible to the eye."
McKinnon states that Caribou has three valuable assets – but the 'spectacular purity of the Buckingham samples' dictates that exploration and development money should be spent their first.
"One of the beauties of the Buckingham graphite is that it can be found at surface," stated McKinnon, "So it's relatively easy to locate with modern exploration techniques." "The purity of the Buckingham graphite puts Caribou King in niche market," stated CEO Michael England, "With end users who require this size and purity, Caribou does not have to compete against larger companies with lower grades. We are focusing on high grade veins – Quality over Quantity is the name of the game at this time."
"The purity is of great importance," continued England, "You have some beautiful graphite deposits around the world, but if they're loaded with sulfides, they tend to have weak economics. When you have to build a mill to extract the sulfides, the cost per ton goes up substantially and so does the environmental impact of the project. So having high grade – high purity graphite at surface is exciting."
"We have been receiving phone calls from end users in Europe 'We've noticed you are getting 99.9% purity from flotation – could you please send us with samples for our own analysis'" stated McKinnon, "So I jumped in my truck, drove to the property, scraped off the snow, found my trench from last summer, dug out a sample and shipped it off." Caribou now has exposure to a full project value chain from a European relationship that provides analytical facilities and strong contacts in downstream industries to evaluate and process technical samples.
"The next step is to take a more powerful Electromagnetic survey tool, and get a reading about 30 feet deep," stated McKinnon, "And then we are going to do an extremely tight grid over top of this area and see how many veins there are and how deep they go." "In the next 12 months our goal is to establish a resource of ultra-high grade graphite on the Buckingham property, this can be achieved quickly and cheaply. As the first step to establishing a 43-101 resource calculation, we run an EM survey, dig trenches, take assays and send them to the lab for purity testing."
In parallel to an aggressive exploration program on the Buckingham graphite property, England's team has prioritised further metallurgical studies to help in characterizing and defining this unique graphite deposit.
Used in batteries, electric cars, nuclear reactors, fuel cells and solar power systems – large flake graphite is a critical ingredient in a surging wave of popular modern technology (electric vehicles, tablets, cell phones, etc.).
"If the Buckingham grades remain consistent, I believe the Buckingham property and others like it could be the key to securing domestic graphite supply sources, thus ending the reliance on importing graphite and creating North American independence for this fast growing commodity of the future," England finishes.
Caribou King Resources holds multiple highly prospective graphite properties in Quebec and is currently trading on the TSX Venture exchange under the symbol "CKR".
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