Graphite: Imerys closes Namibian mine amid falling flake graphite prices

Production has ceased at the Okanjande flake graphite mine, operated by Imerys Gecko Graphite Mining, a joint venture between the global industrial minerals processor, Imerys, and Gecko Namibia. Imerys had previously reported processing issues at the mine with problems ramping up to desirable production levels. In combination with falling graphite prices through Q3 2018, Imerys has made the decision to place the operation under care and maintenance, which it announced in a recent quarterly update.

Roskill view: Production began at the mine, located in Otjiwarongo, Namibia, in May 2017 and Imerys had initially planned to ramp up capacity to 20ktpy for graphite concentrate at 85% C. In September this year, Imerys reported ‘geological and processing issues’ at the mine, citing problems reaching scheduled output of graphite concentrate and in meeting sufficient yield levels. Meanwhile, flake graphite prices have fallen throughout the second half of 2018, making graphite production less profitable. According to Industrial Minerals, prices for higher carbon grade (94-97% C) medium and fine flake graphite declined by 2-3% in August and a further 1-2% in September.  While prices held steady through October, prices of all 94-97% C flake sizes fell back again in the first half of November.

Development of the operation included the purchase of a processing plant, formerly operated by Solvay Fluorspar, which has been retrofitted to process graphite. The plant is valued at around US$50M. Imerys had aimed to supply graphite from the venture into lithium-ion battery markets.

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