A new mine at Graphite Creek could impact the communities of Teller, Brevig Mission, and Nome within the next few years. A group of four employees from Graphite One Resources gathered community members’ input last week in advance of the mine’s completed preliminary economic assessment (PEA).
Doug Smith, the Executive Chairman of Graphite One Resources, explains that the project is just finishing the exploration phase and moving into the development phase.
“Our expectation is that we will develop a graphite mine to produce graphite concentrate here,” stated Smith. “We are in the early stages of that, we are just about to complete our preliminary economic assessment, which is an engineering document, which is the first step to determine whether or not the project is economically viable, and assuming that it is, if it’s a positive report, then we are about four years away from a construction decision at that point.”
Even though the mine’s potential construction is four years away, the project group’s Community Affairs representative, Joy Huntington, says it was important for them to start engaging community members now.
“It has not been determined that the project is financially viable, but we’re already developing relationships in the communities. Meeting with NACTEC, talking about potential future training opportunities for folks from the villages that we’ve been meeting with. We’re also meeting with Kawerak, the subsistence director, just getting to talk to people as early as we can so we know what opportunities there are and what concerns there could be,” mentioned Huntington.
According to Huntington, the biggest concern community members have is how the project will impact subsistence throughout the area. To help address those concerns, Graphite One Resources brought along an Environmental Manager, Cal Craig.
“My role is really two-fold,” said Craig. “The first part is the permitting side, so I’m working with the State agencies to get our permits in line for a camp and drilling operations and such, so that’s the first part. The second part is environmental baseline data collection, and so, we’ve been working on collecting water quality data, wetlands data, and that’s kind of just the tip of the iceberg. The studies will grow, and there will be wildlife surveys, and subsistence surveys, and cultural resources, and a whole long list.”
The fourth member of the group is General Manager of Operations Dave Hembree. He lists some of the battery-operated products which graphite from this specific mine could be used for.
“And right now, we’re looking at what’s called spherical graphite or coated spherical graphite, which is used in the battery market. And all of our modern devices from cell phones to MAKITA drills to, now, automobiles and, in the future, trucks, are going to be driven by batteries, and we are using quite a bit more graphite in that,” stated Hembree.
Hembree says the Graphite Creek deposit is located about 70 miles north of Nome on the shoreline of the Imuruk Basin along the range-front of the Kigluaik mountains.
Smith hopes the mining project will produce about 50,000 tons of graphite concentrate a year, which he says is a relatively small mine. The future of the project depends on the preliminary economic assessment (PEA) which is expected to be completed in a month’s time.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the Imuruk Basin as the “Amarok Basin.” The error has been corrected.
Also, the map image above (provided to KNOM by Graphite One Resources) mislabels the Imuruk Basin as Grantley Harbor. Grantley Harbor is the body of water immediately east of Brevig Mission and Teller.