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Leading Edge Materials updates purification test work from Woxna graphite project

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Global Mining Review,

Leading Edge Materials Corp. has provided an update on the purification test work underway on graphite from the Woxna graphite mine in Sweden. Woxna is a fully constructed mine, with all processing, waste management and infrastructure in place. During 2017, Woxna was granted an extension to its operating license until 2041.

As previously disclosed, Leading Edge Materials is undertaking various R&D activities to support the design and installation of a Battery Graphite Demonstration Plant at the Woxna mine site. The Demonstration Plant will have the capacity to supply meaningful (100’s of kgs) quantities of lithium ion battery anode material to prospective industrial customers.

To facilitate process trade off and equipment selection decisions, the company is now completing additional test work for the thermal purification of graphite at the in-house laboratory of a large European company. The current test programme follows on from preliminary testing carried out in 2017 and is delivering a matrix of results where time, temperature and gas conditions are systematically varied. The performance data from this programme will facilitate selection of the furnace equipment that can meet the required temperature while providing insight into the energy needs to produce various high purity graphite products.

The current programme has been highly instructive in defining the process conditions that achieve purities from 98% C through to 99.99% C. Based on test work to date, purity up to the highest value nuclear materials (99.999% C) can be achieved using Woxna graphite and a thermal purification system.

Leading Edge Materials’ market research amongst lithium ion battery manufacturers has shown that product specifications vary substantially in purity, particle size distribution and price expectations. As a result, a high degree of process flexibility will be required to meet customer demands both now and as the European lithium ion battery industry matures.

Leading Edge Materials have tested both chemical and thermal graphite purification technologies, with both achieving ‘battery grade’ material purity. As the Woxna site already has ample power capacity for thermal purification, and northern Sweden provides access to very low-price hydro power, thermal purification presents as a cost effective and low-carbon generation choice. Furthermore, thermal purification removes the need to transport, handle and dispose of the toxic chemicals typically required for natural graphite purification, so ensuring minimum environmental impact and contributing to the sustainability of battery materials supplied from Woxna.

Samples used for the current test programme were surplus spheronised feedstock with a carbon grade of approximately 94%. The test programme continues, and further results are expected next month.

Blair Way, President and CEO, stated: “Our purification and spheronisation test programme is delivering the data required for a tradeoff study and the subsequent design of the Woxna Battery Graphite Demonstration Plant. The company looks forward to supplying large quantities of graphite from our Demonstration Plant to prospective European battery customers to robustly compare with the Asian-sourced natural and synthetic graphite anode used by industry today.”

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