THUNDER BAY – Across Northwestern Ontario, there is a lot of excitement about the Ring of Fire and the prospective bounty of chromite that might be found. However there is another discovery, graphite, which has been found in significant amounts by Zenyatta Ventures in their Albany Project. The find, still in the exploratory stages, could signal the opportunity for a shift of significant magnitude in the world’s supply of this fairly new commodity.
Graphite is used in making Graphene. Graphene is something fairly new. It was first announced as a discovery in 2004. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov from Manchester University discovered graphene, and were awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
Graphene is a carbon that can exist as a sheet only one atom in thickness. This one atom thick material is transparent, and has the same capacity to conduct electricity as copper.
A. K. Geim, a researcher at Manchester University in Great Britain states, “Graphene is a wonder material with many superlatives to its name. It is the thinnest known material in the universe and the strongest ever measured. Its charge carriers exhibit giant intrinsic mobility, have zero effective mass, and can travel for micrometers without scattering at room temperature. Graphene can sustain current densities six orders of magnitude higher than that of copper, shows record thermal conductivity and stiffness, is impermeable to gases, and reconciles such conflicting qualities as brittleness and ductility. Electron transport in graphene is described by a Dirac-like equation, which allows the investigation of relativistic quantum phenomena in a benchtop experiment”.
The uses for this material are exciting. Research into using it to make solar cells, that could be placed on windows of homes, buildings and car, to produce electricity is ongoing. The prospect of having a thin film of graphene on windows, helping to power a home, or having thin sheets of the material on walls too could make the long promises of green energy a reality.
All of this however is early in the game in Northwestern Ontario.
Zenyatta Ventures reports, “The Zenyatta graphite discovery is located 30km north of the Trans Canada Highway and approximately 4km from an all-weather road. It is within 40-50 metres of surface, underneath overburden (glacial till/swamp). Although much more work is needed to determine the full importance of Zenyatta’s new graphite deposit, the outlook for the global graphite market is very bullish”.
The company states further, “A similar deposit may be the vein graphite deposits of Sri Lanka. Vein graphite has been interpreted as being derived by hydrothermal fluids, as in the Albany Graphite Deposit. The origin of the graphite is proposed to be derived from a CO2 rich fluid, likely related to the emplacement of a carbonatite. This CO2 rich fluid could promote hydraulic fracturing (brecciation) and precipitation of vein graphite. Graphite veins and breccias are quite rare, and very few are described in the geologic literature. The Bogala Mine, a Sri Lankan graphite deposit, has been in production since 1847. It is a high grade, narrow vein (20cm), underground mine. Sri Lankan graphite still enjoys great demand due to its unusually high purity and unique physical properties”.
The outlook for the global graphite market is very promising with demand growing rapidly from new applications in clean technology including fuel cells, solar panels and rechargeable batteries. China produces over 70% of global supply and, like other commodities, now has less available for export as domestic demand grows. As global demand outstrips supply, graphite prices have increased substantially, more than doubling over the past three years.
The world’s supply of graphene has, up to now been dominated by China and India who have 80% of the world’s supply at present. Canada has not been a major player in this new material’s discovery up to now.
Should Zenyetta’s discovery of graphite prove as big as indications are appearing, Canada could be taking a larger role in this new technological opportunity.
Zenyetta Ventures is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange Ventures under ZEN.V