Graphite is the new lithium: Kingsland

Synchronicity has been the theme at Kingsland Minerals since the company started drilling out what could be a significant graphite resource earlier this year, months before China warned it would flex its muscles and use its dominance of global supply chains (reports MiningNews).

Graphite 2

From December 1, China is considering curbing exports on some graphite materials for national security reasons, adding to gallium and germanium controls, and the same playbook as its decision to restrict rare earth element exports a decade ago.

That has put a lot of eyes looking elsewhere for new supply, and Kingsland believes it is well placed along the development curve given it has the jump on some of its rivals, and its Leliyn project is on Asia's doorstep.

Kingsland managing director Richard Maddocks said while graphite is important in industrial and battery uses, the mineral had long been overshadowed as the "poor cousin of nickel and cobalt".

"It has been a bit like the lithium story, it was unwanted a few years ago, and it wasn't what people were looking for," Maddocks said.

The shortage started last year with a deficit that could grow to eight million tonnes per annum by 2040, even before China's move that is expected to exacerbate supply issues has been good news for Kingsland, which started with a uranium focus on the Northern Territory's Pine Creek region, but where the graphite potential has quickly come to the forefront.

"The (20km-long) graphitic schist was always known, but Pine Creek has been known for its gold mining, and prior exploration was for copper and uranium," Maddocks said.

The first graphite drilling in a decade quickly flagged the potential for a thick, high-grade resource and it has only continued to improve since May.

Kingsland has now drilled 5km of the schist with the aim of delivering an inferred resource next quarter, with a measured resource to follow soon after.

Drilling has had to stop before the wet season.

Maddocks believes the project's location, just two hours from Darwin, with access to transport routes and energy infrastructure, gives it a good chance of development, but the Leliyn's real starting point is its geology.

"These are some of the best intersections in the world, such as 206m at 10% total graphitic carbon from surface. We're getting consistent grades, in what seems to be a rich deposit with scale and nice, regular, simple geology," he said.

The "conservative" exploration target, based on the limited historical drilling and ground reconnaissance for the 5km strike drilled so far, was estimated at between 200-250Mt grading 8-11% for 16-27Mt contained graphite.

Kingsland is at its earliest stages of work but is confident it will be able to produce a graphite concentrate, and with increasing government support for downstream processing, Maddocks can see a path to producing battery anode materials in the top end.

Maddocks confirmed Kingsland had some "very preliminary, informal discussions" about its development, but the aim is to complete metallurgical test work and deliver the resource.

Kingsland will also examine gallium credits as a potentially significant by-product given selective sampling returned intersections such as 266m at 15 grams per tonne gallium from surface.

Once partners "can see the meat on the bones" Maddocks said Kingsland could entertain further talks, and the next six months could transform Kingsland's future.

Kingsland has around A$3.5 million cash remaining, enough to get it to that point, having raised $3.6 million at 32c in June.

The stock has traded at 12-45c over the past 12 months, and was capitalised at $15 million based on 25c per share.

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