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Natural flake graphite is an important industrial mineral. Like most industrial minerals, its commercial value is derived from its physical and chemical properties. Flake graphite’s excellent thermal and electrical conductivity make it an ideal material for use in electronic products such as batteries and thermal management products such as refractories and thermal storage media.

About Natural Graphite
The arrangement of flake graphite’s carbon atoms in its layered hexagonal structure. Strong chemical bonds within the hexagonal structure and weak bonds within the layers highlight the minerals versatility in the areas of lubricity and conductivity and ultimate commercial value.

Natural graphite is a grey to black soft mineral with a metallic sheen. It is flexible and compressible and exhibits both thermal and electrical conductivity as well as inertness, high thermal resistance, and most of all, lubricity making it suitable for a variety of industrial applications and markets.

Flake graphite has been referred to as the “highest grade of coal” and is an allotrope of carbon. Yet, unlike coal, flake graphite has a melting point of more than 3,600C.

Natural graphite can be classified into three commercial types. The first, microcrystalline graphite, is generally known as amorphous graphite. The remaining two are macrocrystalline and geologically found in two forms, flake and vein or lump graphite. The only commercial deposits of vein or lump are located in Sri Lanka.

QGL’s Uley deposit is an example of macrocrystalline flake.

Each type of flake graphite can be further classified into a variety of grades based on carbon content, ash content, particle size, and types of impurities.

Flake graphite is best known for its extensive use in refractories (thermal), lubricants, friction (lubricity), powdered metal (lubricity), and carbon brush (conductivity). It is increasingly being adopted in emerging technologies as the preferred media for thermal storage and thermal management products (thermal, conductivity). 

An X-Ray diffraction of Uley 2 flake. A feature of flake graphite is the clearly visible crystalline face.
Uley 2 +196 flake graphite powder.

Key data from the USGS’ National Minerals Information Center

Geoscience Australia’s summary of Australia’s graphite resources

Overview of South Australia’s major graphite resources

What are Critical Minerals?

Critical minerals are mineral commodities that are indispensable to the development of a modern economy. Their sustainable supply is essential to much of the technologies we take for granted in our everyday life. These minerals are critical because there are few, if any, substitutes and as a result, threats to continuing supply have far reaching consequences not just for national economies but also a nation’s security.

Mineral commodities that have important uses and no viable substitutes, yet face potential disruption in supply, are defined as critical to the Nation’s economic and national security. A mineral commodity’s importance and the nature of its supply chain can change with time, such that a mineral commodity that may have been considered critical 25 years ago may not be critical now, and one considered critical now may not be so in the future.

U.S. Geological Survey news release, Critical Minerals of the United States

… the scarcity of critical minerals leaves them potentially vulnerable to supply constraints and shortages. Many countries with specific economic and industrial development requirements are starting to take a more strategic approach to ensure security of supply of these minerals. These approaches include efforts to diversify supply and to source from countries with the geological capability to satisfy critical minerals demand.

Joint Ministerial Forward, Australia’s Critical Minerals Strategy 2019

Australian Government, Dept. of Industry, Innovation and Science

Production, availability and the supply chain essential to global distribution are the subject of significant governmental action ranging from direct US Presidential intervention to the implementation of national strategic policy frameworks.

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