iTech has approved $1.1m in R&D funding to progress development of a process to produce battery anode material from its Sugarloaf graphite prospect in South Australia.

The funding includes a 46% grant allocation from the Australia Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) Grants program with the remaining 54% to be funded by the company and its partners on an equal contribution basis.

iTech Minerals (ASX:ITM) notes that the research project will initially focus on the production of a high-grade graphite concentrate from Sugarloaf and then progress to purification and spheroidisation to produce uncoated purified spherical graphite.

Managing director Mike Schwarz notes that while recent drilling has proven that Sugarloaf contains a significant amount of graphite over its 4.3km strike, simple flotation techniques that worked to purify graphite at its nearby Campoona deposit have not been as effective at Sugarloaf due to the microcrystalline nature of the graphite flakes.

Here’s iTech’s explanation for why metallurgy is the key to unlocking the value in graphite deposits.

“iTech’s challenge is to refine this metallurgical process and produce a high-grade concentrate with good recoveries,” he added.

“We believe this new partnership with The Sustainable Minerals Processing Group at The Future Industries Institute, University of South Australia (UniSA) and metallurgical specialists at METS Engineering can crack the code and convert Sugarloaf graphite into the in-demand spherical graphite that is used in battery anodes, unlocking a significant amount of value for iTech’s shareholders.”

Flowsheet development

The research project will seek to develop a flowsheet for the development of Battery Anode Material (BAM) using graphite sourced from the Sugarloaf prospect within the Campoona graphite project.

It will cover the efficient recovery of microcrystalline flake graphite from ore, spheroidisation of the graphite allowing for greater efficiency in battery use, and purification to 99.95% purity graphite that is suitable for use in lithium-ion batteries.

Once complete, this is expected to allow the company to produce ultra-pure, spherical graphite to feed the growing renewable energy and battery materials market.

Sugarloaf prospect

A recent 17-hole drill program proved that there is plenty of graphite mineralisation in the southern portion of the Sugarloaf prospect.

Notable assays are 28m at 15% total graphitic carbon (TGC) from a down-hole depth of 75m and 18m at 11.2% TGC from 114m (SLRC23-006), 17m at 6.4% TGC from 80m (SLRC23-004) and 6m at 5.3% TGC from 39m, 6m at 7.8% TGC from 48m and 2m at 12.6% TGC (SLRC23-002).

This demonstrates thick, high-grade mineralisation from surface to over 100m depth over a distance of 4.3km.

This article was developed in collaboration with iTech Minerals, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.