A number of natural flake graphite projects have moved closer to production in recent months, buoyed by higher prices through 2018. During Q4 2018 and early 2019, at least three projects have completed feasibility studies and another updated its existing feasibility study. Several others have completed prefeasibility studies, scoping studies, or resource updates. Meanwhile, Syrah Resources is one step closer to downstream production outside of China, having installed 5ktpy of milling equipment at its Louisiana battery Anode Material (BAM) plant and produced its first un-purified product in December 2018.
Feasibility studies have been completed by Battery Minerals at its Balama Central project in Mozambique, Black Rock Mining at its Mahenge project in Tanzania, and Nouveau Monde for its Matawinie project in Canada. Mason Graphite has also filed an update to its Canadian Lac Guéret project while SRG Graphite has begun a feasibility study for its Lola project in New Guinea. Renascor Resources is working towards completion of a feasibility study and completed its first pilot plant production in Q4 2018.
With further to go towards development, Sovereign Metals has finished a prefeasibility study for its Malingunde project in Malawi while Black Earth Minerals has completed a scoping study on the Maniry project in Madagascar.
Prices for higher carbon grade flake, suitable for use in the anodes of lithium-ion batteries, increased initially through Q4 2017 and Q1 2018 following fifteen months of lows with little price movement. Despite some downward readjustment later in the year, full-year prices for 94-97% C flake concentrate (CIF European port, as published by Fastmarkets), averaged US$836/t for fine flake and US$1,005/t for medium flake in 2018, a 21% and 29% increase respectively on the average for 2017. Price rises were a result of tightened supply in the wake of environmental inspections and processing plant closures, as well as increasing demand growth from the battery sector.
Most of the recent developments have been for projects in Africa. In addition to higher prices, investors in this region may have been encouraged by Syrah Resources’ success in getting its Mozambique Balama project into production. Africa is located close to the main market of China, where the vast majority of the world’s lithium-ion battery supply chain is located and growing rapidly. China is expected to look increasingly to Africa for its growing battery market as its own graphite resources become harder to reach and production costs (including environmental costs) continue to rise.
Roskill’s Natural & Synthetic Graphite: Global Industry, Markets & Outlook report was published in July 2018. Click here to download the brochure and sample pages or to access further information.
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