Graphite rush intensifies in Mozambique and Tanzania

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Verification by Armadale of high-grade graphite in Tanzania came hot on the heels of Australian graphite developer Syrah Resources raising A$194-million for its Balama graphite project in Mozambique and smaller Volt Resources, with the Namangale graphite project in Tanzania, announcing a $4-million placement.

London Aim-quoted Armadale reported graphite mineralisation of up to 33.8% from rock chip samples taken from the Mahenge Liandu graphite project in south-east Tanzania, which it is in the process of acquiring from Graphite Advancement Tanzania.

Armadale chairperson Peter Marks commented in a release to Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online that Liandu represented an opportunity for Armadale to get exposure to the burgeoning graphite market, with modest near-term capital expenditure and limited risk.

Liandu is close to both the Epanko and Mahenge projects, both with considerable graphite resources.

Australian-listed Kibaran Resources is developing Epanko and Black Rock Mining, which is also Australian-listed, is developing Mahenge.

The recently published Benchmark Mineral Intelligence indicated that new sources of graphite production would be needed for the emerging lithium-ion battery sector.

Syrah – which has signed a second supply transaction with Marubeni Corporation of Japan for the offtake of 50 000 t of spherical graphite a year, the first involving the sale of 20 000 t of flake graphite a year – reported that Balama would produce its first ore in the second quarter of 2017.

“Institutional investors swamped a A$194-million equity raising from Syrah in the most emphatic indication to date of the market’s red-hot interest in graphite,” The Australian newspaper commented, adding that Balama was destined be the world’s largest graphite mine and that the capital raising had left Syrah with funding to develop a downstream graphite processing plant in the US.

As happened with rare earths, China is reportedly becoming increasingly reluctant to part with graphite, and has imposed high export duties to discourage graphite exports and to encourage domestic graphite processing.

Volt has signed three memorandums of understanding with Chinese graphite end-users on potential supply out of Namangale.

Armadale said that graphite mineralisation of up to 33.8% total graphite content at Liandu had been demonstrated through analysis of rock chip samples taken from graphite schist outcrops over 1.5 km.

The company said that independent consultants, Newport Mining Services, confirmed visual estimates of graphite content in the graphitic schists, which is considered to be a strong indication of assayed grade mineralisation.

Lithium-ion batteries currently on the market have graphite anodes and cobalt oxide, iron phosphate or manganese oxide cathodes. However, one manufacturer has reportedly created a new type of silicon anode, which, with the help of a layer of graphene, can contain more lithium ions than graphite.