American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • What are China’s intentions for its graphite production?

    The following is a guest post by American Resources expert Simon Moores.

    Wide-reaching controls on China’s natural resources continue to be at the forefront of its shift to a high value economy.

    Already industries like rare earths and phosphate fertilizer are tightly controlled by government-forced regulation. The question remains whether graphite – the 9th most critical raw material according to the British Geological Survey – is headed for the same fate.

    Natural flake graphite is used as a key component in all battery technologies, the batteries that will power a shift to electric vehicles and the batteries we all rely on for mobile technology today. China controls 70% of supply while the USA has no active production. In fact, the whole of North America only produces 3% of the world’s flake graphite from one mine in Quebec, Canada.

    Buyers of graphite – which are predominately steel refractory manufacturers – have become over-reliant on cheap product from China, but those days appear to be over as the country looks towards limiting low value exports in favour of high value domestic manufacturing.

    Common restrictions the Chinese government has imposed on its miners include:

      • Closure of smaller mining pits under 20,000 tonnes/year to encourage larger pits and economies of scale
      • Closure of older, inefficient processing plants
      • Installation of plants capable of producing value added products such as spherical graphite
      • Redirection of raw flake graphite material to these value-added plants and away from exports
      • Potential for an export quota system such as in the magnesia and fluorspar industries in the past
      • Heavier taxes for exports of raw flake graphite material

    If even some of these come to fruition in the future, the global graphite supply landscape could look very different.

    Download a presentation on the subject here.

    For companies and countries used to counting on China for a relatively cheap and reliable graphite supply, Moore’s assessment is a warning sign that future supply may be far less certain.

  • Graphene’s pioneers battle global hype

    There has been much hype surrounding what has been described as the world’s wonder material – graphene. It is (theoretically) stronger than steel, more conductive than copper and incredibly flexible. Graphene is a one atom layer of carbon, a truly two-dimensional material. One mining company described it as “graphite, unfolded”.

    On the face of it graphene holds the potential to change everything we do and replace many critical raw materials in numerous applications. For example, replacing indium in touch screen technology is being targeted today by producers.

    In reality, however, the road to wide scale commercialisation and unlocking the true potential of graphene will be long and hazardous.

    Following two conferences in Europe over the last two weeks, the global interest in graphene from the world’s biggest corporations is clear. Companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, Panasonic, and Phillips were in attendance listening to small start-up graphene developers and, in some cases, graphite miners.

    Surprisingly, creating a viable, commercial production method didn’t seem the problem concerning today’s graphene pioneers. Finding real world applications and customers to buy it appears the greatest challenge.

    “There is no killer app for graphene,” said one US-based developer.

    To gain market acceptance, the serious developers are crying out for a standard definition and independent body to oversee this. Many are concerned the recent over-inflated graphene hype is attracting marketers that is discrediting the significant work of the materials scientists and engineers.

    “Lots of people call what they make graphene. There are no standards, no definition,” Jon Myers, CEO of US-based Graphene Technologies told a delegation in Berlin. “But to be honest I’d do the same – if I had a 50 layer platelet, I’d call it graphene, to.”

    Graphene clearly has a ground swell of interest on a global scale. While it may be a long time before we see true, game-changing graphene applications, the serious graphene companies must also be as effective at marketing as they are at materials science.

    Industrial Minerals on Graphene:

    Graphene hype won’t help, say manufacturers (FREE)

    Graphene industry needs standard definition

    Billion dollar material has zero market

    Graphene targets $1.8bn indium market

  • As graphite demand increases, geopolitical dimension becomes more apparent

    ProEdgeWire’s Graphite and Graphene Weekly Review sees surging demand for graphite and its derivative graphene, not least because of their important role in battery technology, where graphite continues to be a traditional component, while graphene is considered a major factor in future generation batteries. Recent reports of aircraft batteries catching fire won’t change that – [...]
  • EV uncertainty dominates discussion at Graphite Conference – Part 2

    This is the second of a two-part post by American Resources Expert Simon Moores and his Industrial Minerals colleague, Andy Miller. Read Part One here.   2013 rebound after poor year 2012 has been a poor year for graphite demand. Trading activity has been sapped out of the industry since September with little sign of [...]
  • American Resources experts to speak at international graphite conference

    American Resources Principal Daniel McGroarty will speak alongside fellow American Resources expert and Manager for Industrial Minerals Data, Simon Moores, at Industrial Minerals’ 2nd Graphite Conference 2012 in early December. In light of its traditional uses, its importance for the new Li-ion technology, and the ostensibly endless potential applications for the “new super material graphene,” [...]
  • Tungsten and Fluorspar – strategic implications of mineral resource supply issues stretch beyond REEs

    You wouldn’t necessarily expect to find Tungsten and Fluorspar mentioned in the same sentence as “Rare Earth Metals.” With its traditional applications in ballistics, the former is historically known as a “war metal,” while the latter has been an important component for chemical applications. And in spite of the fact that Tungsten makes the top [...]
  • “The New Black”? New study examines graphite’s potential

    Graphite’s uses have long been diverse, but, according to the experts at Industrial Minerals Data, the “emergence of the Li-ion battery era” – with Li-ion technology being key to our everyday portable electronic gadgets – has the “potential to turn the industry on its head.” Coupled with the ostensibly endless potential applications for the “new [...]
  • Supply crunch may loom for Graphite

    In an article this week, Resource Investing News is asking: “Will the U.S. Produce Graphite?” As the piece points out, with China producing roughly 80 percent of global graphite output, and the U.S. not producing the metal in spite of the fact it is considered a critical mineral, “it is imperative that the US find [...]