The people, science and technology behind discovery

Subscribe to the Magazine

Get new articles sent directly to
your mailbox.


Join the network

Twitter Updates Group Forum

Earth Explorer is an online source of news, expertise and applied knowledge for resource explorers and earth scientists. Sponsored by Geosoft.


News & Views

News Archive

December 7, 2016

Geosoft introduces IP and resistivity inversion in VOXI Earth Modelling

Geosoft has added induced polarization and resistivity data inversion to its VOXI Earth Modelling 3D inversion software service. Geoscientists are now able to create detailed 3D models of conductivity and chargeability from IP and resistivity survey data with VOXI. The resulting models can assist in interpreting and targeting regions for mineral and environmental applications...

December 5, 2016

Mexico's Deepwater Round Exceeds Expectations

Some of the world's biggest oil companies showed up Dec. 5 and agreed to invest on the Mexican side of the Gulf of Mexico, proving that deepwater exploration still has a pulse despite challenging market conditions...

November 30, 2016

Magnetic inversion results for Ngamiland available for download

A regional-scale geophysical inversion of magnetic field data in the Ngamiland region of northwestern Botswana is now available for download from the Botswana Geoscience Portal, a partnership initiative of the Botswana Geoscience Institute, industry sponsors and Geosoft...

November 30, 2016

LIGO Resumes Search for Gravitational Waves

After a series of upgrades, the twin detectors of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, have turned back on and resumed their search for ripples in the fabric of space and time known as gravitational waves. LIGO transitioned from their engineering test runs to full science observations at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on November 30...

November 9, 2016

International Volcano Scientists Unite

For the first time, the United States will host the international Volcano Observatory Best Practices workshop, previously held only in Italy. The workshop will take place this month in Vancouver, Washington. It is designed specifically for volcano observatories around the world and their staff to exchange ideas and best practices with each other...

October 4, 2016

USGS Assesses Mineral Potential for Sagebrush Habitats in Six Western States

USGS has completed a comprehensive assessment and inventory of potential mineral resources covering approximately 10 million acres of Federal and adjacent lands in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming...

October 3, 2016

Uganda Targets Up to U.S.$100 Million for Mineral Exploration

Uganda is well endowed with mineral resources and, like many naturally-gifted African countries, is becoming keen on ensuring that these resources play a transformative role in its long-term structural transformation dream - the Vision 2040...

September 9, 2016

Small-Scale Fishers Get A Big Boost With First-Of-Its Kind Impact Investment Fund

Conservation organization Rare announces the Meloy Fund for Small-Scale Fisheries at Our Ocean Conference. The Global Environment Facility, one of the largest funders of conservation worldwide, will be investing $6 million into the fund...

September 1, 2016

Scientists take to the skies to track West African pollution

Scientists operating research aircraft over West Africa have detected organic materials in the atmosphere over a number of urban areas, contributing to concerns of the rise in pollution across the region...

August 17, 2016

New IGS Xplore prospectivity maps for Botswana

International Geoscience Services have released a series of base metal prospectivity maps for the Ngamiland District of northwestern Botswana using free geodata available on the recently-launched Botswana Geoscience Portal, hosted by Geosoft. The maps identify favorable areas for copper, zinc and lead mineralization using geological, geochemical and geophysical datasets downloaded directly from the portal.

August 11, 2016

NexGen Makes New High Grade Discovery

NexGen Energy reported the discovery of a new high grade zone of mineralization 4.7 km northeast of the Arrow Deposit as part of an on-going summer drilling program on its 100% owned, Rook I property, Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan...

August 10, 2016

Rampion UXO Disposal to Take Place This Week

E.ON has confirmed that the two unexploded devices, detected along the Rampion offshore cable route will be safely disposed this week following the consultation with the Marine Management Organisation...

August 9, 2016

Diamonds In The Rough: E&Ps Find New Reserves In Mature Basins

The oil industry’s history demonstrates clearly that new plays and prospects have long been found in mature basins that were thought to be well on the way to being squeezed dry. Through the acquisition of new data, developing new concepts and coming up with fresh interpretations, long-producing basins around the world from the North Sea to Malaysia have continued to reveal new riches...

August 8, 2016

Northern Shield Identifies High Quality VTEM Targets at Séquoi

Northern Shield Resources announced the results of the interpretation and modelling of the VTEM survey from the Séquoi Property in the Labrador Trough of Quebec . Séquoi is owned 100% by Northern Shield and is being explored for Noril'sk style Ni-Cu-PGE massive sulphides. After geophysical modelling and interpretation of the VTEM data from Séquoi, six VTEM anomalies of significant interest have been identified...

August 3, 2016

Rio Tinto tailors big data drive to copper

Rio Tinto will put the weight of an exploration big data push and its newly-formed Growth and Innovation group behind its desire to identify a "tier 1" copper asset. Speaking at the annual Diggers & Dealers conference in Kalgoorlie, Growth and Innovation group executive Stephen McIntosh said Australia was "overdue for a tier 1" mineral discovery of any type...

August 1, 2016

Tetra Tech Awarded $200 Million Navy CLEAN Contract

Tetra Tech announced that it has been awarded a $200 million, single-award contract by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic. Through the Comprehensive Long-term Environmental Action Navy (CLEAN) contract, Tetra Tech will provide environmental engineering support services to installations within the NAVFAC Atlantic Area of Responsibility...

May 3, 2016

NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS), MODUM Partners announce "Young Scientist Summer School on Sea Dumped Chemical Weapons"

This international project cooperates closely with CHEMSEA (Search and Assessment of Chemical Weapons) Project for and sharing and knowledge transfer...

April 12, 2016

Monday mad rush for gold stocks

Renewed optimism about the outlook for gold saw investors pile back into gold stocks, pushing many stock to 52-week highs in heavy volumes...

April 11, 2016

Medgold Resources: Continues to Expand the Boticas Gold Project, Portugal; Proposes $200,000 Private Placement

Medgold Resources is pleased to announce new assay results from contiguous rock-chip sampling from the Limarinho South zone at its Boticas gold project in Portugal, which include a highlight of 6.0m @ 5.7 g/t Au...

April 8, 2016

De-carbonizing our energy sector

Nuclear energy currently provides around 11 percent of the world's electricity. China, the European Union, the United States, India, Russia, South Korea, and other nations’ have major existing fleets...

April 1, 2016

Follow-Up Drilling Results Indicate Wide Gold Zones at Hendricks Gold Discovery

Gascoyne Resources Limited announced that it has received the final assay results from the 10,000 metre aircore exploration drilling programme...

March 26, 2016

The Oil Market Is Finally Hitting Its Breaking Point

After a significant reduction in investments over the past two years, oil companies can no longer overcome the production declines from legacy wells...

March 15, 2016

N-Sea Expands into the French Offshore Wind Industry

Subsea IMR provider, N-Sea, has signed a letter of intent with CERES Recherches & Expertise Sous-Marine and TechSub Industrie Environement, to provide subsea survey, installation and remediation services to the French offshore wind industry...

March 9, 2016

PDAC 2016 Convention Exceeds 22,000 Attendees

Optimism and opportunity abounded at the PDAC 2016 Convention of The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada in spite of recent industry challenges...

March 3, 2016

6 Alpha Launches EOD Contracting Division

6 Alpha Associates, a specialist risk consultancy practice, with expertise in the assessment and management of unexploded ordnance, has launched a dedicated explosive ordnance disposal division...

Nimble juniors prepare for potential surge in graphite and vanadium demand

by Virginia Heffernan on July 20, 2012market

Several juniors have jumped on the graphite and vanadium bandwagon, hoping that new sources of demand for these strategic minerals, mostly from battery applications, will make their exploration projects viable. It’s a risky business that depends to a large extent on what China, a major supplier of both minerals, decides to do. If China were to impose export quotas on either mineral to secure supply for internal uses, as it has done with rare earth minerals, there could be an explosion in demand for alternative sources. Most of the current graphite and vanadium production is used in steelmaking, a market that also depends heavily on China and its prospects for growth.

Let’s tackle graphite first. Prices for natural flake graphite have been soaring in recent years because of lack of supply from mines that cut capacity in the lean years and China’s crackdown on exporters that were shirking the 20% export tax on graphite. The junior sector has taken note, with an estimated 40 companies now scouring the globe for the mineral. Most of the investment focus has been on companies closer to production, which are either restarting old mines such as Ontario Graphite’s Kearney mine in Ontario and Flinders Resources’ Kringel mine in Sweden, or taking previously abandoned advanced stage deposits to production, such as Focus Graphite’s Lac Knife deposit in Quebec and Northern Graphite’s Bissett Creek project in Ontario.

We chose instead to highlight the early and mid stage explorers. They carry a higher investment risk but many have geologically intriguing projects with the potential to become producers if the market for lithium-ion batteries and other green energy applications continues to develop.  The most advanced of this group is Energizer Resources, which is currently exploring the Molo graphite deposit on its Green Giant property in Madagascar (which, coincidentally, also contains a major vanadium deposit). Molo is significant because it is a large, shallow deposit with high grades (6-10% carbon) and an abundance of “jumbo” flake graphite that is relatively easy to process. The deposit is underlain by highly metamorphosed and sheared metasedimentary rocks formed during the break up of the Gondwana supercontinent.

Canada is home to the majority of graphite exploration projects, most of them situated in similar intensely metamorphosed sedimentary terrain such as Strike Graphite’s Simon Lake and Deep Bay East projects in Saskatchewan. Historical drilling returned grades up of to 27.3% carbon over widths of 3-35 m at Deep Bay, while recent drilling intersected a 148 m graphitic zone at Simon Lake within a 25-km long EM conductor. The central metasedimentary belt of the Grenville Province of Quebec is also a graphite exploration hotspot where Strike is making progress on its Wagon property near the producing Lac des Iles graphite mine. Also probing the Grenville is Standard Graphite, which found graphite conductors on several properties with historical occurrences using airborne TDEM surveys and is now sampling those occurrences and their extensions. And Galaxy Graphite is set to begin a 3000 m drilling program at its Sun project near Baie-Comeau, where several large-flake graphite targets were first identified by Finland's Outokumpu in the late 1990s. In Ontario, Standard is investigating the Little Bryan property near Ottawa to follow up on the graphite mineralization outlined in trenches as well as a near-surface conductive trend. Further north in the James Bay Lowlands, Zenyatta Ventures recently intersected 170 m grading 6.6% carbon in a breccia pipe, an unusual host rock for graphite and a potential new source of the mineral.

Across the border in Alaska, Graphite One Resources has recently tripled the strike length to 16 km of an EM conductor that is coincident with graphite occurrences and contains a large volume of graphite-bearing rock within a garnet-bearing quartz biotite schist. 

The vanadium space is less crowded with explorers, most likely because there is less certainty about the need for new sources of the metal that can be recycled from steel smelter slag or produced as a byproduct of uranium mining. Nevertheless, vanadium’s potential future demand in rechargeable redox batteries has encouraged enough juniors to see what they can find outside of the traditional source countries of South Africa, China and Russia. While Energizer has shifted its focus from vanadium to graphite in Madagascar, companies such as American Vanadium, Atlantic and Largo Resources continue to advance towards production. In Nevada, American Vanadium is investigating a historic resource hosted by black shales overlying mudstone at the Gibellini project and could become the lowest cost primary vanadium producer in the world because of the deposit’s low strip ratio. Atlantic is trying to beat American Vanadium to the punch by developing the Windimurra mine in Western Australia, one of the world’s largest known vanadium deposits. Other advanced projects in Western Australia include Reed Resources Barrambie project and Speewah Metals iron-titanium-vanadium deposit in the Kimberley region. Largo is ahead of all of them. Construction began on the Maracas project in Brazil in June and the company has a 6-year off take agreement with Glencore for production.

Earlier stage projects include: Crosshair Energy’s CMB uranium-vanadium project in central Labrador, where a $2.2 million drill program of up to 3,500 m just got underway within gneissic, sedimentary, volcanic and granitoid rocks near the junction of three regional faults; Triple Nine Resources’ Four Corners iron-titanium-vanadium property in Newfoundland, where a 2011 VTEM survey discovered several high intensity magnetic anomalies along the Cabot Fault Zone; and PacificOre Mining’s Lac Doré iron-titanium-vanadium deposit in Quebec, a large, layered Archean intrusion with a historical estimate of 102 million tonnes of 35% magnetite, 17.4% ilmenite and 0.50% V2O5.

The challenge for many of these explorers and developers will be to raise enough financing to continue with their projects while market conditions are so dire. Not all of them will make it but, with time, a clearer picture should emerge of just how much graphite and vanadium the world will need to feed a steady demand from not just steelmaking, but new green energy applications. By then, the fieldwork will be done, the resources brought up to 43-101 standard, and the most viable projects will emerge. It’s what the junior mining sector does best, regardless of the commodity.