Production of graphite on Senja in Troms county began almost 100 years ago. Skaland Graphite, the name of the company in our times, is Europe's largest graphite mine and one of only two graphite mines still in production in Europe.
-"Most of the graphite we sell at present is used in refractory materials" says Trond Abelsen, manager of Skaland Graphite. "Graphite has a thermal stability of 4000oC. Graphite is commonly mixed into steel alloys in order to strengthen the steel. We also", he continues, "deliver graphite to the brake band industry. We have done this since the 1990s when asbestos was replaced by graphite in production of brake bands."
The carbon content of the ore at Skaland is high compared to that of graphite deposits in other parts of the world.
-"In China ore with a carbon content of 10% or lower is mined" tells Abelsen "and some mines in Canada have as little as 2 %. On Senja we have an average carbon content of 30%. We process this to reach a carbon content of ca. 90 % in concentrate, but flake graphite with the coarsest grains, reaches 98% C."
Several criteria must be satisfied if the graphite is to be suitable for use in chargeable batteries.
-"In order to succeed we must develop a good cleaning technology which ensures that the carbon content in the graphite is close to 100%. We must find processes which can give the graphite grains a spherical form and, in addition, investigate the graphite's storage capacity."
Skaland Graphite has carried out the last of these tasks in cooperation with Graphene Batteries, with financial support from Mining & Mineral Cluster Norway. The results show that the graphite from Skaland has good properties for energy storage.
-"We would not have been able to begin this work without the support of the Cluster" says Abelsen. "We had an economically demanding situation when we began, while at the same time it was also important for us to gain access to a rapidly growing market with a promising future."