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Water Today Title May 30, 2024
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2024/4/24

DEVELOPING CANADIAN MINERAL SUPPLY TO THE GROWING EV INDUSTRY, SANS WATER AND CHEMICALS
WT Interview with CEO of Green Battery Minerals, Tom Yingling

WT: The first thing I would like to do is talk about why you are doing graphite mining, what is your role in this and going forward, what are you hoping for?

Tom Yingling: The main reason we are proceeding with graphite, most people aren't aware of this, concerning the electrification of the world and especially electric vehicles, the largest mineral used in electric vehicle lithium ion batteries is graphite. In fact, about 28% (of the EV battery) is graphite. Most of that material comes from China. The world is looking for alternative (Environmental-Social-Governance) ESG-friendly sources, which is why we are getting involved.

WT: How does the process work? I have heard so many people over so many years saying that the regulatory system for opening a mine in Canada is a nightmare. How do you see it, and how is the system treating you?

Yingling: Yes. Traditionally, and still now, it is not easy to open up a mine, that is the case. Things are changing as the world, and particularly North America is trying to find local sources of ESG-friendly minerals to go into these batteries. We have to find areas that are A. close to home, B. have enough minerals, enough supply to open a mine. All of this must be done in as clean, green environmentally friendly manner as possible. Where we are, northern Canada, is included in the Inflation Reduction Act, which is what the Americans have put down in that most minerals have to come from friendly sources, Canada is a friendly source. The US doesn't want to be dependent on non-friendly sources. Most anodes come from China. China recently announced large tariffs on graphite, the world is now scrambling around for a replacement. Not just any replacement, also a cleaner, greener one. Quebec offers that.

WT: How does it come to be that a company like yours acquires a graphite mine, do you actually look for graphite, are there geologists out there looking for graphite, or is this some sort of acquisition you do as a company, to buy this site? How does it come to be that you have this area in Quebec to do graphite mining?

Yingling: It doesn't just happen overnight. This was about seven years ago when the site was brought to me, graphite had not been discovered yet. It had not been drilled; it was just a geo-physical anomaly on a map. When it was brought to me, I don't know much about graphite other than pencils. When I talked to my team, they said "No, no, no. Don't think pencils, golf clubs or fishing rods, think electric vehicles like Tesla. It's the number one mineral used as the anode in the batteries, as the world switches more and more there will be massive demand for it. There are very little graphite mines coming on stream, there is only one mine producing graphite in North America right now. When I looked at the project, I asked what's around it, they said there is a massive mine-to-be next door. The best place to find a mine is in the shadow of head frames. Where there is one mine, there is often another because Mother Nature has gifted the geology to be correct, engineering and infrastructure seems to make sense for that area. We are very fortunate, six km away from our resource, we have one of the largest graphite deposits that should go into production over the next several years. Graphite is used in Lithium-Ion Batteries as it conducts electricity very well. When you first start hunting for graphite, you conduct geophysical surveys and these send a signal towards the earth. When this signal hits graphite it produces an anomaly as the graphite conducts the signal. Over the past several years we have discovered many anomalies and drilled several times and intersected graphite in almost every drill hole. We were very fortunate, we have a lot of it.

WT: You are on the stock exchange, that tells me you are in the business right now to raise money to start the mine, is that correct?

Yingling: We are looking either for a partner or to raise funds to move us closer to production. Our next-door neighbours are Nouveau Monde (NYSE-NMG), who matched up with General Motors and Panasonic. Battery manufacturers have realized that if foreign sources of the anode material dry up or get cost-prohibitive, then where are we going to get our material, we will have the cars, not the batteries to put into them. GM and Panasonic have put a huge investment, $150 million in order to guarantee 18000 tonnes of graphite offtake per year in the future. They are investing now to secure 18000 tonnes per year down the road, that is what we are hoping to acquire in dealing with a partner too.

WT: If your mine comes on stream, how many tonnes are you looking at producing?

Yingling: We are working toward a PEA, Preliminary Economic Assessment, that will tell us how much per year, and it can vary as it depends on how much of the resource you develop and prove out. Right now, we do have a proven resource of 3.2 million tonnes of indicated and inferred graphite as per our 43-101 resource estimate report, and we have only drilled 10 percent of our properties so far. So, the more we drill, the higher that number should get, especially since we have sampled graphite at surface on our other properties already. A lot of risk has been mitigated by this so now it’s not “is there any graphite there?” its now “we know there is graphite, just how much”.

WT: You won't be asking the federal government for any help financing your project or is that an option as well?

It is an option, what we have found so far to date, the funding available is for infrastructure, electricity and roads, what we need is engineering and groundwork. Funding hasn't got there yet, we are hoping it’s coming.

WT: When you tell the story of your graphite mine to investors, what is your single number one or number two feature to attract investors?

Yingling:
We are very fortunate, the average grade of graphite around the world is between 2 and 6 percent, so for every tonne you are getting rid of 94% waste rock. Our average is 17% so also from an ESG and carbon footprint reduction It's better because there is not so much waste rock to remove. The other thing which is nice, you can rent a car in Montreal or Quebec City and drive right to our site, right on the property, on to the graphite.
It’s unheard of in my 30 years of looking in the mining space, you are always looking with helicopters, and remote as heck. If we go into production one of the key advantages, we have is that our graphite is at surface. This means that the first shovel in the ground you are making money and there is less waste rock as we don't have to remove a bunch of waste rock in order to get to our pay zone. We should be able to remove it from the first shovel in the ground. Carbon footprint, ESG, better all around.

WT: How many people would work at a graphite mine when it opens like that, have you done any environmental assessments, or is that down the road?

Yingling: The major environmental studies are down the road, the number of employees is determined by the size of the mine and other variables we don't necessarily know yet. If you look at our next-door neighbour, they have done two full feasibility studies, what that means is you do everything you can to see if the project is worth it or kill it. One or the other. The next step is hundreds of millions of dollars to build the mine. You don't want to do that if there is potentially something there to kill the mine. Sometimes it turns out there is a spotted owl or a special lizard that is protected and the mine can't open. The neighbour has proven there shouldn't be anything in our property different than theirs, they are 6 km away, they have done some heavy lifting for us.

WT: This is fascinating for us, we usually cover more environmental issues. Tell me then how far away you think you are from the first shovel in the ground?

Yingling: It is hard to say but we have many factors on our side. There is a shortage of graphite. Our graphite is on the surface. It is high grade. and road accessible. In a country where the Gov't has committed to spending over $30 Billion on EV development, and all these giga factories will employ people and they need graphite to be able to process. We are one of the closest resources to these factors.

WT: How far along are you to dealing with a GM, a Ford, a Toyota or is that who you are looking for as a partner?

Yingling: We have been discussing with all the companies that you would recognize. General Motors has the offtake with the neighbour but that won't be enough. There is a company called Benchmark Minerals and they have predicted the demand for electric vehicle minerals, saying 97 new graphite mines will need to come online to meet demand. There aren't even 97 graphite projects in the world, never mind 97 mines. That was the number prior to Oct 2023 when the Chinese announced the tariff on anode material. If they increase the price or shut the tap off altogether, the price could easily double.

WT: That's an astounding amount of money the mine will generate.

Yingling: We are looking for partners but it doesn't have to be a General Motors or Panasonic, it could be another group that really likes the story, wants to get behind it and support it and make money along the way. It could be another company, or high net worth individuals that want to get involved in the space.

WT: Tell me about the process of mining graphite, specifically, where does water fit in to this?

Yingling:: Traditionally, graphite is crushed to separate the graphite from waste material, then it is floated in a water and chemical mixture as graphite will float. Chemicals are then used to purify the graphite to get it to the level needed for anodes, for lithium-ion batteries. We have partnered with Volt Carbon, and they have a proprietary process where there is no water use. This mitigates the damage done to water, and to wastewater later on, there is no chemical use, no reagents. It is a fascinating process, better for the environment, better for your ESG footprint, better for your reduced carbon footprint. Normally when you go cleaner and greener, it translates to more expensive. Here it actually is way less money, it’s been done on a pilot project in their factory, and we are excited about being able to trial this out on the property to see if it is commercially viable. If we can get it to work it will be very disruptive for the battery industry as no one else is doing it.

WT: Thank you for doing this.









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