OAR Resources (ASX:OAR) has taken a step towards putting its Eyre Peninsula Oakdale Graphite Project “back on the map,” to use its own words, as it strikes a deal with CSIRO towards the production and supply of spherical graphite.
Spherical graphite is required to produce lithium-ion batteries, critical products in global decarbonisation and electrification initiatives overseen by public and private sectors around the world.
OAR Resources notes that a number of other entities will be involved in the work, though specific entities are not currently disclosed. However, Oakdale Graphite does enjoy listing as a critical minerals project on the Federal Government’s books.
CSIRO will work with OAR Resources to examine specifically the latter’s ability to produce a higher margin Purified Spherical Graphite (SPG) product. For graphite to be used in battery technology, it must first be refined into an extremely pure form.
OAR Resources and CSIRO will conduct metallurgical studies and examine downstream refining practices to assess whether or not the graphitic minerals extracted from the company’s Eyre Peninsula acreage can make the grade—or, the refining process.
OAR Resources has sat on the project since 2015 while interest in graphite has gone through a number of rejuvenations.
However, following covid and a renewed focus on decarbonisation and electrification that was popularised during last year’s COP26, the role of graphite in lithium-ion batteries has become intensified again beyond the EV market.
BESS energy storage technology requires greater amounts of copper, nickel and graphite than do batteries used in EVs and similar assets.
Graphite anode production is currently wholly within the remit of Chinese producers, and the CSIRO have been working with numerous companies over the years to secure an Australian manufacturing process.
Much lower-grade graphite ultimately goes to create crucibles to be used in steel mills. Graphite has a melting point far beyond the melting point of steel.
But to tap into the value of the electrification and decarbonisation markets, producers must first be able to produce SPG—and other countries.
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