Talga Resources is seeking to become an
industry-leading bulk producer of crystalline carbon products
by late 2016, when it aims to begin mining and processing
graphite and graphene at its Vittangi project in northern
The company showed IM during a
recent visit how operations were progressing at its Nunasvaara
deposit, which is located within Vittangi.
Talga told IM that it believes
its low cost method of producing graphite and graphene is
uniquely applicable to the ore from its Swedish projects. The
company also said that its process design bypasses the need for
traditional comminution circuits.
"While the technology we will utilise is
relatively simple, the graphite deposit we have at Nunasvaara
is unique — we have conducted a lot of research and as
yet we have not found mineralisation from another deposit that
works with our methodology. The key to the method is the ore
itself, more than the process; our deposit has a distinctive
and unusual geological history," Talga’s CEO, Mark
Thompson, told IM.
Nunasvaara drill core
boxes awaiting transfer to the company’s
core processing warehouse.
to Talga’s Nunasvaara deposit site
coincided with the diamond drilling of 10 holes at the
Vittangi resource, all of which were collared close to
electromagnetic anomalies, and for which the company
has recently received assay data which includes 46
metres at 31.4%C.
Talga has five graphite projects in northern
Sweden, all of which have different mineralisation
characteristics, from amorphous (microcrystalline) graphite,
through to jumbo flake.
Vittangi is the company’s most
developed project, Thompson told IM, adding
that Vittangi has the highest grade JORC and NI 43-101
compliant graphite resource in the world.
The project’s indicated and inferred
resource totals 7.6m tonnes at an average grade of 24.4%
contained graphite (Cg), though some areas have recorded grades
of over 48% Cg. Vittangi’s graphite flake
distribution is predominantly made up of material less than
75µm - often defined as amorphous graphite.
A scoping study on the Vittangi project was
recently released by the company, which is progressing its
permitting process for a bulk mining operation and a pilot
plant, scheduled to open in mid-2015.
The study suggested a relatively low capex
requirement of A$29.2m ($25m*), at a 30% accuracy level, which
Talga said is minimised by the simplicity of its plant
While graphene could provide significant income
for the company, Nunasvaara could operate on graphite revenues
alone, Talga told IM, explaining that this
would reduce the risk to of entering the still embyronic
Talga told IM that its current
focus is centred on the prospectivity of its graphite and
graphene projects in northern Sweden, ahead of other non-core
mineral holdings in iron, copper and gold.
Revenue from Nunasvaara has already started to
come in, following the sale of samples to a German nanoprinting
company and graphene research facilities, which have used
material from surveyed and assayed drill cores.
The high carbon content of
Talga’s drill core material, which
recently returned assay data in excess of 48% Cg, is
visible to the naked eye.
A rig operator inspects the drill
mechanism during operation.
Shift to graphene
Thompson told IM that
metallurgical work on the Nunasvaara ore samples directed his
attention to graphene additives, and other bulk applications
for the high-tech material, rather than just scaled graphite
This is a significant departure from the graphene
scepticism of July 2013, when Thompson told
IM: "I like traditional markets, the more
basic the better." The test work on the Nunasvaara samples
revealed a graphene production method that Talga claims is
simpler and far less expensive than methods adopted by rival
"The planned process plant will use a series of
steps adopted in other mineral processing industries, but in a
non-conventional way that specifically suits Nunasvaara-type
graphite ore," Thompson told IM.
The comminution circuit will incorporate a series
of cells that subject whole ore blocks to a wet,
physio-chemical technique that liberates graphene and waste
products without any primary crushing, grinding or
During the comminution stage, both colloidal
graphene and particulate graphite will be separated in a single
step to form individual recovery streams. The graphene stream
will be further filtered, sized and dispersed into specific
solutions for bulk transport to meet customer
Talga’s mining and
processing method would utilise solid blocks of
graphite — the company’s
metallurgical work details how the proposed production
method does not require crushing and grinding for the
liberation of the graphene and graphite
The graphene produced from Talga’s
metallurgical programme has been shown to be of very high
quality, with few internal structural flaws, holes and tears,
the company said, adding that this increases the reach of its
Talga told IM that other
graphene separation methods usually involve a large number of
steps, which increases cost and can introduce structural flaws
because of the processing disturbances.
Talga attributes its belief in its competitive
cost advantage primarily to the removal of the need for
preliminary crushing and grinding in its metallurgical process,
which is usually ascribes significant capex and opex costs to a
Vittangi’s graphite also has a
specific set of conductive mafic "waste" minerals, meaning that
immediately saleable graphite electrodes could be produced at
low cost on a lathe, with no further processing.
Jalkunen, another graphite project owned by the
company, was recently announced to be amenable to the same
graphene production method as Vittangi. Talga said that it
believes that the deposit shares the same 2bn year old graphite
*Conversions made November 2014.
First prepared in the lab in in 2004, having been
theorised since the 1960s, graphene could be utilised in
circuitry, construction, packaging, batteries, green energy and
hundreds of other industries.
Its breaking strength, which is 100 times that of
steel, means the mass of steel and concrete needed for
construction could fall dramatically. In packaging, because
graphene’s crystal structure allows nothing to
penetrate it, except water, its addition to packing material
could significantly improve the shelf lives of products.
Batteries could benefit from
graphene’s high conductivity and its potential for
use as an anode material. It could also make a highly efficient
semiconductor, owing to its unusual physical properties.
For now, many of these potential uses remain
theoretical, or at the research and development stage.
Production tonnages remain small, and scaled commercial
production is yet to occur. IM’s
2012 Natural Graphite Report suggested that total
world graphene production was only around 20 tonnes in
The report, however, contained an estimate by
Korea IT, Standard Resources, that despite modest
production tonnages, the total economic effect on the world
from graphene in 2013 would be Korean won (K) 14.23 trillion
As research intensifies and businesses become
more aware of the material’s wide implications,
the economic effect is expected to grow significantly, and the
Korean research predicted that in 2018, graphene’s
economic effect on the world will reach K24.9 trillion