With a preliminary economic assessment on its Albany graphite project in northern Ontario due in the fourth quarter, Zenyatta Ventures (TSXV: ZEN; US-OTC: ZENYF) is nailing down the details of how the operation would work, including the all-important metallurgical process.
The company recently produced a high-purity graphite product from Albany graphite at a pilot-plant scale, confirming the positive results of previous bench-scale tests.
Testing at SGS Canada’s laboratory in Lakefield, Ont., produced a concentrate through flotation. The concentrate was then upgraded through a caustic bake-based process to 99.95% carbon.
Zenyatta notes that the product has a highly crystalline structure and contains low impurities (less than 0.05% elemental impurities), and there are no concerns with deleterious elements, such as boron.
The company has sent the product out to potential customers for testing and evaluation. The junior has signed more than 20 confidentiality agreements with end users, including companies and academic institutions, giving it key insights into its potential customers’ specifications.
It’s also working on improving the purity by producing a higher-grade flotation concentrate. Previous bench-scale tests at SGS have produced ultra-high purity graphite of up to 99.99% carbon.
Test work is continuing and will provide additional information for the flow sheet and for the upcoming PEA, including the engineering data for energy requirements, water treatment, reagent consumption and equipment sizing.
The company expects to develop a distinctive process for Albany, which is a rare vein-type graphite deposit. Vein or hydrothermal deposits contain higher-purity graphite than flake graphite deposits, are easier to process and upgrade, and command the highest prices. However, because it is so rare, vein graphite makes up a small part of the current natural graphite market — about 1%.
There are many emerging high-tech uses for graphite, which has unique chemical, electrical and thermal qualities. Established markets for vein graphite include energy storage, brushes and electrical applications.
Zenyatta says its deposit — which is 400 km northeast of Thunder Bay, but close to road and power infrastructure — gives it an environmental advantage over other deposits because processing with harsh acids or high temperatures is not necessary.
Aside from metallurgy and processing details, the upcoming PEA will outline expected capital and operating costs, marketing and pricing assumptions, and look at open-pit mining methods.
The economic study will be based on Albany’s maiden resource, which was released in late 2013. Indicated resources total 25.1 million tonnes grading 3.89% graphitic carbon for 977,000 tonnes of carbon, using a cut-off grade of 0.6% graphitic carbon, and a graphite price of US$8,500 per tonne. Inferred resources add 20.1 million tonnes grading 2.2% graphitic carbon for 441,000 tonnes carbon.
The resource is contained in two well-defined, vertical breccia pipes that are 250 metres apart.
In corporate news, Zenyatta recently appointed Kenneth Stowe to its board of directors. Stowe was president and CEO of Northgate Minerals (since taken over by AuRico Gold [TSX: AUQ; NYSE: AUQ]) until he retired in 2011. Stowe replaced Clifford Davis, who resigned for health reasons in August.
Zenyatta shares recently traded at $1.98 in a 52-week window of $1.48 to $4. The company has 55.6 million shares outstanding.