The Australian Geoscience Information Association (AGIA), SA Branch, hosted a very successful half-day seminar on Graphite potential and graphene research in South Australia in the Ira Raymond Room, Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide, on 26 May 2016. About 70 people attended the seminar to hear presentations by five invited speakers, each with a short Q&A session. Informal discussions over a light lunch followed.
In his Welcome, Branch President, Des Tellis, took the opportunity to introduce AGIA, its aims and objectives and its long connection with the Australian Earth Sciences Information System (AESIS), which he characterised as one of the largest geoscience information projects undertaken in Australia. The AESIS story, he said, was recorded in AGIA Occasional Paper 8 published in October 2015 as an e-document and available for sighting on the AGIA website, details of which were in the ‘News Release’ handed out to registrants. As a database with over 200,000 references to Australian published and unpublished literature and reports, still available on RMIT’s Informit network, he considered AESIS to be an important resource, particularly for research purposes.
The first presenter was John Keeling, Senior Principal Geologist at the Geological Survey of South Australia, Department of State Development, speaking on Evolution of graphite markets and introduction to graphite resources on Eyre Peninsula. John gave an overview of graphite properties and current market demand for synthetic and natural graphite. This included developments in traditional uses in steelmaking and refractories, increased demand from battery technology for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage, and emerging uses in fuel cells, pebble-bed nuclear reactors, and for graphene research. Current and new global sources of natural graphite supply were considered, including Australia’s premier graphite province on the Eyre Peninsula. He outlined the geological setting of graphite deposits on the Eyre Peninsula, including past developments at the Uley mine and recent exploration activity leading to further discoveries. Some insights were provided on geological and mineralogical factors affecting beneficiation and suitability for target markets.
The next presentation was by Dr John Parker, Managing Director of Lincoln Minerals Ltd, who spoke on ‘Kookaburra Gully and Koppio graphite deposits in Australia’s foremost graphite province, SA’s Eyre Peninsula. He was followed by Gerard Anderson, Managing Director of Archer Exploration Ltd who spoke on Archer’s Eyre Peninsula graphite projects. Both gave expert evaluations of the geology and development potential of their respective deposits, including the role of electrical geophysics in identifying targets for resource drilling. John Parker ranked the Kookaburra Gully deposit in the top ten of global graphite resources, based on graphite grade. Development proposal for the deposit is well advanced, with strong Chinese connections, and grant of a mining lease by the SA Government was imminent. Gerard Anderson discussed the significance of variation in graphite properties across deposits on central Eyre Peninsula and the opportunity this presented for greater market diversity. For instance, Archer’s large Sugarloaf graphite resource contains poorly crystalline graphitic carbon, which Adelaide University research established as having substantial agricultural benefits in improved water retention and plant nutrient availability, when applied on sandy soils. Archer Exploration, along with graphite producer Valence Industries, were early financial supporters of graphene research at Adelaide University, which was elaborated by the next two speakers.
Professor Dusan Losic, Group Leader, Losic Nano Research Group, School of Chemical Engineering, University of Adelaide, and Dr Diana Tran, Research Leader, Graphene Research Group, School of Chemical Engineering, University of Adelaide, spoke on Graphene research at University of Adelaide. Professor Losic presented an excellent snapshot of the diverse potential uses for graphene being researched world-wide and supported by extraordinarily high levels of funding. This is reflected in the publication of some 75 papers a day on graphene research, by multiple agencies. He described graphene production methods and showed several videos of graphene products being developed and tested at Adelaide University, including robust self-cleaning surface coatings and fire-retardant coatings from graphene. Dr Tran followed with detailed examples of their Research Group’s work with particular reference to development of suitable analytical approaches to characterise graphene and thereby develop standards for reporting graphene quality. Professor Losic and Dr Tran’s extensive knowledge and obvious enthusiasm undoubtedly were factors in the recently announced grant to Adelaide University of $2.6 million in Federal Government funding to establish the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Hub for Graphene Enabled Industry Transformation.
Much credit for the success of the seminar goes to the efforts of Committee Members Shelagh Krummel and Pam Aagaard for organizing the pre-seminar flyers and material for distribution at the seminar as well as all the subsequent arrangements, and to John Keeling who joined the Committee on invitation and brought together such a brilliant panel of speakers.