The purpose of mineral exploration is to locate a deposit containing mining minerals, and to research it more specifically by means of geological, geophysical and geochemical research methods. A deposit refers to a concentrate of mining minerals existing in the bedrock, which may have potential economic value as a target of mining activities. In practice, the aim is to compile geological data taking samples, e.g. by test drilling, in order to find out about the quality and size of a possible deposit.
Mineral exploration has been practiced in our country already for centuries. It is being done actively also today in terrain in different parts of Finland, however, particularly in Northern and Eastern Finland, where the oldest bedrock in our country and its potentially mineral-rich zones are located. Finnish bedrock has been formed in several phases via geological processes that have also affected the mineral potential of our bedrock. Mining industry has traditions in our country, and during the past decades, a lot of knowledge, expertise and industrial activity has accumulated in Finland. A part of this industry has evolved into global export industry, such as the manufacturing of mining equipment.
The development of technologies and the increasing need for mineral raw material resources has created a basis to mine deposits with concentrations lower than previously, in an economically viable manner. At the same time, issues related with the state of the environment has been brought up with tones stronger than earlier, which has promoted the development of environmental technologies. There is strong expertise in Finland in the field of questions related with opening and closing of mines.
Natural graphite is one of the minerals defined critical for the EU economy. It is used for refractory applications, brake pads, carbon brushes for electric motors, foundries, as a dry lubricant, for steel manufacturing and for anode manufacturing in battery industry. Graphite is an extremely refractory, chemically unreactive non-metal with low specific gravity and good thermal and electric conductivity. In nature graphite occurs in three different forms: amorphous, flakes and veins. Amorphous graphite is the most common form of these, with the lowest quality, whereas the crystalline form is rarer, occurring as separate crystallized flakes in metamorphic rocks.
The flake graphite is converted to spherical graphite, which is used as anode material in Li-ion batteries. It is the use in battery applications where the most growth for graphite has been forecast to take place in the future. Li-ion batteries contain from 20 to 30 times more graphite than lithium. Flake graphite is also being use for the manufacturing of graphene. Graphene is the strongest know material with regard to its mechanical properties, having exceptionally good electric conductivity. Besides this, it is transparent and flexible. It has been forecast to be the next-generation material to revolutionize electronics industry. Purposes of use are being developed, for example in the field of solar cell and transistor applications.
Between the 1760s and the year 1947, 30 flake graphite deposits has been mined in Finland. Graphite is a relatively common element in the Finnish bedrock, and metasediments with a high degree metamorphosis are the most potential areas to find high-quality flake graphite.
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( graphite )
( graphite )