Earlier this month,
Canada Carbon Inc. reported that laboratory results from
its Miller vein graphite property, in Quebec, Canada, showed
potential to produce new material that can be used in the
|Tests by Evans Analytical Group on the crystallinity
of the graphite and by SGS Lakefield on the purity have
shown the potential for the product to enter the nuclear
Image: Canada Carbon Inc.
This news was not only picked up by industry reports, but
also at government level, and Canada Carbon has since been in
discussion with federal officials in Ottawa.
To find out more about how Canada Carbon hopes to achieve
entry into this niche, and often closed-off industry,
IM caught up with the companys CEO,
Duncan outlined the strategy for the Miller deposit,
explaining how Canada Carbon expects to overcome stiff
competition from over 100 juniors in the graphite market. A lot
of this, he said, was down to the simplicity of excavation at
With a bulk sample permit, and surface exposure of the
veins, we can go into production using simple excavating
equipment. We can then have our ore custom milled, and sell the
product, which will provide non-dilutive capital to fund
further exploration and resource definition activities,
Duncan told IM.
Previous sampling work at Miller has identified grades as
high as 80.1% C and assessed the visible graphite deposit
through a series of new samples taken directly along and into
the vein at a depth of approximately 30-50mm.
Test work conducted by Evans Analytical Group (EAG) on the
crystallinity of the graphite and by SGS Lakefield Ontario on
the purity further highlighted the potential for the product to
be used by the nuclear industry.
EAG said the crystalline quality of the graphite was
better than any other industrial graphite sample it
has analysed to date. Duncan further explained that Canada
Carbons understanding from the scientists was that the
crystallinity of the graphite tested was actually higher than
that of the commercial graphite used to calibrate the equipment
used to measure it.
Since releasing these results, Canada Carbon said it has
received significant industry interest in its graphite, but
added that it is still in the characterisation phase.
Our graphite is found both in high grade veins (30-90%
C), but also as smaller disseminations. All indications (easy
hydrometallurgical upgrading, and rapid thermal upgrading,
along with the high crystallinity (Raman)), suggest that the
graphite crystals did not intercalate with the waste
minerals, Duncan told IM.
That means that the graphite crystals appear to be of
very high carbon purity, with the waste material surrounding
those crystals, rather that intergrown into them. Picture your
fingers laced together. Your fingers are intercalated. Picture
your fingers balled into a fist. Your fists are separate
graphite crystals, he explained.
Nuclear industry potential
Canada Carbons management has met with a number of
federal government officials from various agencies
to discuss the first domestic production of nuclear- and
military-grade graphite in recent history.
Duncan told IM that Canada Carbon did not
approach these officials it was the other way round.
On 15 October 2013, we first released assay data
indicating that our graphite exceeded nuclear purity standards.
All it took was combining the words nuclear and graphite in one
sentence, and we came under the watchful eye of
government, Duncan said.
On an ongoing basis, we have directly submitted our
technical information to the proper authorities. Our meeting
with a number of agencies collectively was simply the most
efficient way to bring each other up to date, and ensure that
all of the regulatory standards would be met going forward. The
ore in the ground is not regulated (...) at a certain point
during processing of that ore, it will become regulated,
We will continue to liaise with the appropriate
government agencies, as our project develops further, he
told IM, adding that the company anticipates
that the next meeting will be held in one or two months
While Duncan explained to IM that it was
premature to say that Canada Carbon is now in the nuclear
industry, he did say that the company has discovered that
graphite from Miller readily upgrades to exceed the
purity standards for nuclear applications.
Our ash content is well below the 300 ppm nuclear
standard, and our boron equivalent concentration is less than 1
ppm well below the most stringent nuclear
threshold, he said.
However, in niche industries like nuclear it tends to be a
case of very low volumes but higher prices, so
IM pressed Duncan on how this might affect the
companys ability to shift volume of graphite mined.
Low volume and higher prices together provide the
perfect impetus for going into early production. We are still
very much in the exploration phase at the Miller project. What
we have found, already exposed at surface, will already permit
us to develop revenue through our bulk sample permit,
As we further explore the property, using surface EM
geophysics, we discover new veins routinely. Weve also
uncovered veins during road-building on site. There is great
potential for further discoveries, he added.
Duncan concluded by telling IM that as well
as hoping to serve the nuclear industry, Canada Carbon is also
looking at other potential markets that will help it to shift
For military use, high density is a critical variable.
As our material is highly crystalline, and density runs with
crystallinity, we recognised the potential application
immediately. Similar purity standards to those applied to
nuclear graphite are also relevant to military applications, so
our high-purity high-crystallinity graphite could well be
military grade as well, he said.
High purity graphite has a number of potential
applications, from graphene to synthetic diamonds to
semiconductors to lithium ion batteries. We are working on
demonstrating the suitability of our high-purity graphite in a
variety of applications, Duncan concluded.
Nuclear grade graphite
Graphite is used in many different types of nuclear
reactors, where it serves as both a moderator and a spacer for
the fuel elements. Graphite is pretty much inert in that
environment, but the same cant be said of contaminants
within the graphite.
The low ash content threshold is to limit the amount of
contaminants that could either alter the rate of the nuclear
reaction, or participate in it. Some contaminants may also
contribute to the breakdown of the graphite structure when
exposed to radiation.
The lower the contaminant load, especially those
contaminants which can capture neutrons (assessed as the boron
equivalent content), the more suitable the graphite becomes for
use in nuclear reactor core components.