Australian Securities Exchange-listed miner Syrah Resources has announced a number of sales agreements for flake graphite produced by its Balama project, in Mozambique. These agreements are with China’s Yichang Xincheng Graphite Company and Germany’s CS Additive. Yichang Xincheng is a major world producer of speciality expandable graphite, while CS Additive is a major producer of speciality carbon and sulphur products. The miner also announced an agreement with Magus Marketing, of India, to act as a distributor for Balama’s output in that country.
“Our first shipment to Yichang Xincheng is scheduled imminently,” reported Syrah COO Rob Schaefer on January 5. “It is the intention and understanding that, subject to a successful initial spot shipment, a long-term contract will then be agreed. The expandable graphite market is a key market for large and jumbo flake sizes (+80 mesh and +50 mesh), has high growth potential, and is one of the highest value-added uses for natural graphite.” He also noted that these “additional sales contracts [are] providing further diversification across geography and end-use markets, in line with our sales and marketing strategy.”
In September, the miner announced it had entered into a binding sales agreement for 30 000 t of graphite, from the first year of production, with Chinese company Jixi BTR Graphite Industrial Company, which is a 100%-owned subsidiary of lithium-ion battery anode materials developer and manufacturer Shenzhen BTR New Energy Minerals, based in Shenzhen (which is in Guangdong province, in the south of China, adjacent to Hong Kong). Syrah had previously confirmed sales agreements with Hiller Carbon, of the US (signed in January 2016), and Japan’s Marubeni Corporation (signed in June 2016 and covering Japan and Korea). And, in February 2015, it announced a three-year binding agreement with the China Aluminium International Engineering Corporation (Chalieco) for the supply of 80 000 t/y of various-sized graphite flakes.
The mine started commissioning in May last year and produced its first saleable flake graphite product in November. The operations team assumed responsibility for Balama from the construction team on January 1. The mine produces both coarse and fine flake graphite, with both circuits now fully commissioned. The grade achieved by the fines graphite is greater than 95% fixed carbon. The target market or the fine graphite is the battery anode manufacturing industry. In late December, the company stated that the optimisation of the process plant was taking place and that production was being ramped up progressively.
“With the successful completion of initial commissioning activities for both the coarse flake and fines circuits, our operational focus shifts to optimisation and progressive ramp-up,” affirmed company CEO and MD Shaun Verner on December 27. “Installation of the attrition cells is scheduled to commence early in the New Year . . . Production of coarse flake has progressed according to plan, with both grade and particle-size distribution within specification.
“As the Balama operations ramp up, we continue to enter into further sales agreements,” stated Verner on January 5. “With the executive team’s extensive marketing experience, we have demonstrated the ability to negotiate the first major imports of natural graphite into China and broaden our end-market exposure, including supply into both the battery and expandable graphite sectors. As a result, we have made a decision not to activate certain elements of the Chalieco offtake agreement, including the minimum tonnage supply requirement. This allows the company flexibility to develop the sales book into the Chinese industrial market in a manner better aligned with our strategic objectives. Our 2018 production guidance of 160 000 t to 180 000 t, based on expected demand, remains unchanged.”
The company has described the graphite from Balama as being of “exceptionally high quality”. Balama lies in the northern province of Cabo Delgado and Syrah has divided the property into two sections, Balama East and Balama West, which include three so-far-identified high-grade zones. Balama East has the very high grade Mepiche zone and Balama West the high-grade Ativa and Mualia zones. These three zones together host inferred resources of 306-million tons at an average grade of 16.1% total graphitic content (TGC). The Ativa zone has a inferred resource of 21-million tons with a grade of 20.8% TGC.