Ontario juniors push innovation to advance projects – by Wendy Parker (In Support Of Mining.com – November 12, 2013)

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Ontario’s mineral developers may be struggling to generate interest in the financial markets — but they’re certainly having no trouble generating interesting research in the lab.

Northern Graphite, developer of the Bissett Creek graphite project east of North Bay, announced this week that it has partnered with Tennessee-based Coulometrics LLC to “manage development of the company’s proprietary technologies for manufacturing spherical graphite and improving the performance of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.”

Pointing to the industry’s current dependence on supplies from China, Northern CEO Greg Bowes said his company’s objectives are “to provide Li-ion battery manufacturers with a stable, secure source of high quality, advanced graphite materials produced in an environmentally acceptable manner, and to capture additional margin from value added, upgraded products.”

Also on Monday, Thunder Bay’s Zenyatta Ventures, which is working to advance its unusual Albany deposit northwest of Hearst, said it has signed an agreement with the National Research Council that will provide technical advice and financial assistance of up to $350,000 for its metallurgical testing.

Zenyatta president and CEO Aubrey Eveleigh said the deposit has “the potent to produce an ultra-high purity carbon product that could lead to high-tech, value-added business opportunities to emerge in Canada.”

Support under the council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program complements other joint research initiatives to better understand the technical characteristics of the Albany graphite, he said.

And last month, KWG Resources sent the Ring of Fire debate spinning off in a new direction with the announcement that it has filed a patent application for a new chromite reduction method that would tap the continent’s cheap, plentiful supplies of natural gas.

The application comes “in advance of discussions to commercialize a new method of refining into ferrochrome the chromite ore of its Black Horse deposit by means of natural gas,” the company said.

Current ferrochrome processing methods are heavily dependent on electrical power. Questions around access to sufficient power, along with Ontario’s high electricity prices, have sparked some concern over the viability of domestic ferrochrome production.

KWG president Frank Smeenk said the new process, which would combine “North America’s newly discovered high-grade chromite with its also newly discovered wealth of natural gas, could usher a new paradigm into the stainless steel making world. This process could in any event enable further processing of the Ring of Fire chromite to occur in Ontario, without special exemptions to its domestic electricity price.”

KWG has interests in two chromite deposits, as well as control of one of the only potential transportation access routes, in the far northern mineral zone.

Such an innovative bunch! Maybe Ontario’s “creative class” isn’t about gamers, designers and trendy urban centres after all.

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