Graphite developer Triton Minerals aims to start full construction of its Ancuabe graphite project, in the Cabo Delgado region of northern Mozambique, in the third quarter of this year and, subject to financing, expects first production in late 2020, says Triton Minerals CFO David Edwards.
He tells Mining Weekly that the project size and deliberately straightforward flowsheet would allow first production about 16 months after the start of construction.
The Mozambique government granted the company a mining concession last month for the project, which is expected to produce up to 60 000 t/y of graphite concentrate, paving the way for project development. Ministerial approval was the final step in the mining concession application process, with Triton having secured the necessary regulatory approvals to progress the development of Ancuabe.
The grant of the mining concession is a critical milestone in terms of finalising funding negotiations for the project. Financing discussions for Ancuabe are well progressed and, once complete, Triton expects to start design work, mobilisation to site and construction immediately.
Meanwhile, the major project milestones achieved to date include a completed definitive feasibility study that demonstrated the project to be technically robust with strong project economics, as well as provisional environmental approval.
Other milestones include the execution of binding offtake agreements for more than 50% of Ancuabe’s expected production with two Chinese graphite companies, the mobilisation of contractors in June last year to start early works on the raw-water dam and site clearing for the processing facility, as well as the execution of an engineering, procurement and construction contract with Chinese construction company MCC International.
Further, Triton Minerals’ projects also include the Balama North project, located about 230 km west of Pemba, and the Balama South project, about 35 km south of the Balama township. To date, only limited exploration activities have been completed on the Balama South project.
The company plans to submit a mining concession application for the Nicanda Hill graphite/vanadium project – which is part of the company’s Balama North project – and accelerate the development thereof through a joint venture or partial sale.
The Balama North project currently contains one of the world’s largest graphite and vanadium deposits at Nicanda Hill.
According to price data collection and assessment company Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, the graphite market is undergoing transformational growth. Chinese producers, which have typically produced 80% of global flake production, are experiencing supply pressures, with diminishing reserves, lower grades, poor flake-size and mounting environmental and legislative pressure from the Chinese government. This means that the demand for higher purity large flake graphite will increase significantly and that local Chinese production will be constrained, owing to environmental issues and diminishing reserves of large flake graphite.
“Technology and environmental concerns are key drivers of global market growth for the expandable graphite used in flame-retardant building materials and the lithium-ion battery market. “Triton’s product quality is ideally suited to these markets,” Edwards highlights.
Current global graphite supply is estimated at 800 000 t/y to 900 000 t/y. This is broadly in line with demand levels, with pricing currently stable. He points out that the forecast growth in the expandable and lithium-ion battery markets, however, is predicted to create a significant supply shortfall as early as 2026, even after accounting for additional tonnes from planned capacity and projects.
“Triton’s primary strategic focus is production from its Ancuabe project. “Importantly, Ancuabe is a proven region for graphite and is closest of all East African graphite companies to port, power and related infrastructure,” Edwards concludes.