TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – TSX-V-listed Flinders Resources has been chosen as an industry partner within Svenskt Grafen (Swedish Graphene), a government funded programme to research and commercialise graphene production from Swedish-sourced graphite.
Flinders said its flagship production-ready and fully permitted Woxna graphite mine and processing facility – the only graphite mine in Sweden and one of only two in Europe – was the “natural” partner for this programme.
"This announcement represents an exciting milestone for Flinders, placing the company at the forefront of one of the fast moving areas of new materials research. The European Union (EU) and Sweden are global leaders in the research and development of graphene, with a significant research history and very substantial future funding. Sweden is highly regarded as a technology-driven industrial economy and SIO Grafen cements Sweden's position as a sustainable leader in the development and commercialisation of graphene,” Flinders president and CEO Blair Way stated this week.
Flinders explained that the Swedish Graphene project completed the third link in its strategy to position Woxna as a leading supplier to the current and future graphite and graphene industries. Woxna had produced and sold flake graphite to the traditional refractory sector, and was currently researching the production of high-purity graphite product with Chinese technology suppliers.
Graphene is the world's thinnest material and is extremely light, strong and flexible. It also acted as a transparent conductor, combining electrical and optical functionalities. It was believed that the material would provide unique possibilities for completely new solutions and collaborations between sectors in the future.
Woxna and its partner 2D Fab formed the first two links in the graphite-to-graphene value chain and were the main participants in the Swedish Graphene project. The partners would seek support from Swedish industry to evaluate the graphene produced from Swedish graphite in printing, energy and surface treatment applications. The next stage of the Swedish Graphene project was to seek potential industrial users of the graphene for use in a range of products.
Woxna had already mined and milled more than 1 000 t of natural flake graphite since restarting the facility last year. The mine had already shipped high-grade, large-flake concentrate to 2D Fab. Testwork on the Swedish graphite-to-graphene process had started, with 2D Fab running Woxna natural flake graphite concentrate through its unique and sustainable technology that had the ability to produce graphene from natural flake graphite, water and minimal energy, Flinders reported.
The Woxna operation was placed on care and maintenance in June and remained on a production-ready status and could be restarted in “a matter of hours” once viable economics had returned to the graphite market.
Weak end-markets had caused finer mesh grades of graphite to slip further as summer sales failed to see a seasonal upswing. Many Chinese producers had resumed operations over the summer months, adding to rising inventory levels, particularly in China, where suppliers had spent much of the first half of the year destocking.
In 2013, the EU launched the Graphene Flagship Project, a ten-year, $1.1-billion project to research graphene commercialisation. Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden, was the project coordinator.
In 2015, Sweden launched SIO Grafen, a three-year, $6.4-million project aimed at strategic innovation to commercialise graphene production in Sweden. SIO Grafen was financially supported by the Swedish government and industry.
That same year, SIO Grafen initiated Swedish Graphene, a two-year, $280 000 project to investigate Woxna's flake graphite, and its suitability to produce graphene on an industrial scale.
Flinders' partner in Swedish Graphene was 2D Fab, a company spin-off from Mittuniversitetet (Mid Sweden University), which had been conducting graphene research for many years.
The Swedish government provided funding for Swedish Graphene, which would run until November 2016.