Graphite open-pit mine to reopen near Huntsville – by Richard J. Brennan (Toronto Star – March 8, 2012)

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China’s decision to cut its graphite exports has breathed new life into a mine northeast of Huntsville, near the border of Algonquin Park, that was closed almost 18 years ago.

It is an economically depressed area where the up to 80 jobs created at the small open-pit mine operation will be a welcome addition.

“If everything comes together we will be open in September of this year,” Tom Myatt, president and chief financial officer of Ontario Graphite Ltd., told the Star, adding there are only two other graphite mines in North America, one in Quebec and the other in B.C.

“We saw that the increase in the pricing and the increase in the demand for the product justified us going back in there and reopening it,” he said. The one irritant for Ontario Graphite Inc. has been lack of broadband service in the area, making Internet communications difficult.

Ordinarily open-pit mines are a magnet for controversy, but so far even the cottagers aren’t fussed and the mayor of the closest village of Kearney says the new jobs are exactly what the area needs.

Graphite, which is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, has many uses, including in pencils.

Demand for the most part is tied to the steel industry, where graphite is used to increase the carbon content of steel and is used as a liner for ladles and in bricks for furnaces, because it can withstand temperatures of 3,600 C. Other industrial uses include brake linings, gaskets, batteries, lubricants, fire retardants, and reinforcements in plastics.

Demand for graphite has been growing at about 5 per cent a year and could jump even more because of green initiatives such as battery-powered vehicles, fuel cells and solar energy.

Myatt said two things have changed since the mine was closed in May 1994.

“The Chinese, with their growth in the economy over the last 20 years, have really increased their internal demands for graphite, so the amount they have available for export has gone down substantially. And the other thing is the uses of graphite have grown through different technology advances,” he said.

The first hurdle for reopening the graphite operation was to get the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to approve the company’s closure plan, which spells out exactly what it will do with the site once the graphite is played out, and provides a guarantee there will be money to close it properly.

A side issue for the mine is the fact that until the company puts up a satellite dish, the operation will be in communication darkness.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website:–graphite-open-pit-mine-to-reopen-near-huntsville