Magnetic resonance imaging equipment borne by a helicopter is being used to search for graphite deposits near Whatshan Lake.

Graphite exploration taking place near Whatshan

A Vancouver-based mineral exploration company is aerially surveying a 100 square-kilometre area near Whatshan Lake.

A Vancouver-based mineral exploration company is aerially surveying a 100 square-kilometre area near Whatshan Lake in hopes of finding a significant graphite deposit.

Noram Ventures Inc. contracted the services of SkyTEM to scan the area using a sophisticated technology called time-domain electromagnetics. Residents in the area may have seen SkyTEM’s helicopter dragging a large wooden hexagon flying low over the area.

The aerial equipment carries a receiver that picks up information from a generator that creates a pulse in the earth, Noram president Dave Rees told the Arrow Lakes News. Highly conductive materials, like the graphite the company is looking for, produce an “anomalous effect” which is detected by the equipment.

“We discovered graphite on the surface,” said Rees over the phone from Vancouver, explaining the reason behind the aerial exploration. Increased interest in graphite has been sparked thanks to its use in batteries, particularly flake graphite which is required for electric car batteries.

Graphite is mined in open pit mines. “It’s actually quarried like gravel,” Rees told the Arrow Lakes News. The rock is then crushed, and graphite flakes are separated out by being floated on pine oil.

“It’s very environmentally friendly as far as mining goes,” he said, and pointed out the oil is reused over and over again.

If a mine opens, and that is still a big ‘if’ at this point, the Noram president said there would likely be job opportunities for people looking for work at the mine.

When asked if there was enough graphite in the area to warrant building a mine, Rees replied: “That’s what we’re trying to determine.”

“The mining business is a huge gamble,” he commented. “Mother Nature hides her secrets well…you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and not find anything.”

The helicopter-powered search will narrow the area for future exploration. If the results of the aerial survey look promising, samples will then be collected and examined.

“After we get data from this we’ll be following up on the ground,” said Rees, which would mean a ground crew comprised of a couple of geologists will collect samples, hopefully before the snow comes.

At the moment, the helicopter has been grounded due to a tangle between the tree and the low-flying detector. Thankfully no one was hurt, said Rees. The airborne operation is scheduled for a couple more days once the chopper is back in the air.