A major international engineering company has completed a fatal flaw analysis and scoping study with respect to Northern Graphite Corp.'s proprietary purification process. It was concluded that Northern's process does not present any major technical challenges, can be carried out using relatively standard processing equipment and will not generate any harmful waste products. Capital costs are estimated at approximately $10.5-million (U.S.) (including a 35-per-cent contingency) for a facility to purify 5,000 tonnes per year of either flake graphite concentrate or spherical graphite, the anode material used in lithium-ion batteries. Operating costs to purify spherical graphite to 99.95 per cent carbon were estimated at approximately 50 U.S. cents per kilogram. Capital and operating costs are based on conservative reagent volumes and retention times and could be reduced with further testing and optimization, which will be done through the construction of a pilot plant.
Gregory Bowes, chief executive officer, commented: "The purification of mine concentrates is critical to accessing a number of value-added markets. This is the first viable, cost-competitive alternative to the Chinese acid-based process, which is difficult to use in the West because of environmental/regulatory issues." He added, "The large and [extralarge] flake nature of our deposit provides us with the luxury of focusing almost entirely on high-value, high-growth markets such as spherical graphite, high-purity flake graphite and expandable graphite (used in thermal management for consumer electronics, fuel cells, advanced building materials, et cetera)."
A number of technologies that are related to Northern's process have been investigated and patented in the past. The company is not aware of any currently being used to purify meaningful quantities of natural graphite, likely because they cannot achieve required purity levels, reagent consumption is too high or because of technical challenges associated with the reagents and scaling to commercial volumes. The company believes its process can economically purify commercial quantities of its natural graphite concentrate to 99.95 per cent carbon in an environmentally sustainable manner. Initial discussions with the company's consulting engineers and legal counsel indicate that the process and associated equipment should be patentable.
A competitor of the company, whose chief executive officer is a former executive of Northern, recently released a preliminary economic assessment, which is based on a "proprietary low-temperature purification process" claimed as its own. Northern believes there is sufficient information in the preliminary economic assessment to conclude that this process is essentially a copy of the one developed by Northern at considerable time and expense. Northern considers its process to be proprietary intellectual property that is protected as a trade secret and confidential information at common law and through confidentiality agreements which remain in force. Any attempt to use the technology will be met with the appropriate legal response. Reagent consumption and reaction times are very low when the process is used on Northern's concentrates, and this may not be the case for others.
Dr. Mehmet F. Taner, PhD, PGeo, consulting geologist, independent qualified person (as that term is defined within National Instrument 43-101), approved the technical content of this press release.
I think that is about right, pretty much all the commodity sectors took a big hit the last few weeks, now this week the major indexes. Only good thing with this turmoil maybe gold has bottomed. Very sad events in France tonite might have market effects come Monday too???