PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Graphite developer Battery Minerals will only consider downstream processing at its Montepuez project, in Mozambique, once the project’s saleable graphite production is profitable.
MD David Flanagan told delegates at the Paydirt Battery Minerals conference, in Perth, on Tuesday, that while the company had done testwork on a number of downstream activities at Montepuez, the focus was to bring the project into production.
“We have resolved that for us, we want to produce a saleable graphite product and give shareholders a return by starting a mine and making money. Once we have done that and sustained that, we will then look at the downstream opportunities.”
Speaking to Mining Weekly Online on the sidelines of the conference, Flanagan said that the development of downstream processing capacity would only eventuate with the assistance of a development partner.
“The key here is that we will not do that and operate [the downstream processing] exclusively. The downstream activities will only be done with a partner, that is not a core focus of our business. But we can supply product to someone who can leverage off that, and we can generate returns from it.”
Battery Minerals is currently working to complete financing for the planned 50 000 t/y Stage 1 project, with some $42-million of financing still outstanding.
The company was last year forced to defer its first graphite shipment from Montepuez after Resource Capital Fund terminated a $30-million debt and equity funding agreement, saying that the graphite market no longer met its investment criteria.
To date, Battery Minerals has spent some $13-million on project development, with the construction completion likely within 12 to 15 months of financing being finalised.
“We are not that motivated in having a 50 000 t/y project that runs for 80 years, I think that the guys would, as quickly as possible, turn that into 100 000 t/y project, and maybe more, we will see how we go,” said Flanagan.
Flanagan also hinted that Battery Minerals would expand its scope outside of graphite.
“We ultimately don’t want to be a one project or one commodity company. We are called Battery Minerals, and in future I think that you will find that we do other things.”
Flanagan said in an interview that the Montepuez project could also produce vanadium as a by-product, which could be monetised through the processing plant.
“We are going to deliver this first project, and then leverage our operating base, our relationships and our capital to make the most return for shareholders.
“There is capacity to do that by expanding the graphite project, but we are a mining company, so there will be other things we can do and find. I’m not about to go and buy another project tomorrow, it will need to be something that shareholders love,” Flanagan said.