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Panellists discuss graphite demand and rare earth supply chains at Junior Indaba

27th May 2024

By: Sabrina Jardim

Creamer Media Online Writer

     

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With growing demand for electric vehicles, yearly graphite supply needs to be about four times higher in 2030, and about nine times higher in 2040, than at present, owing to its use in energy transition-related products, such as lithium-ion batteries.

During a presentation at the Junior Indaba last week, ASX-listed Walkabout Resources CEO Andrew Cunningham said natural graphite demand would exceed supply in 2025, noting that flake graphite production would require $7.57-billion in capital expenditure investment to meet battery demand in 2035.

“Ninety-seven graphite mines about the same size as [our Lindi Jumbo project need to be built] in the next ten years to meet demand,” he said, noting that there were three listed mines currently in development or nearing production.

Cunningham also noted that the Lindi Jumbo project, in Tanzania, is the first graphite mine outside of China to have received debt funding.

He explained that China’s imposition of export controls had heightened the need for the rest of the world to look closely at the resilience, diversification and circularity of its graphite supply chains, which he said were highly dependent on China.

Cunningham also noted that Walkabout was on track for first sales this quarter, with wet commissioning near completion. He explained that Walkabout bagged its first product earlier this month.

“It’s been a hard and long journey . . . and this is where we are today, a graphite mine that’s on the cusp of production, we are busy finalising commission, and this is where we want to go.”

Also speaking at the Junior Indaba, London-listed rare earths miner Pensana CEO Tim George provided updates on the company’s Longonjo and Coola projects in Angola.

He said Angola had an untapped critical minerals endowment, with good rail, hydropower and port infrastructure, as well as a supportive government.

“Upstream is where we're at at the moment, we do have a fully designed separation facility for splitting up the rare earths in due course, but we've had to, over the past year, focus on getting the upstream going as the base upon which to further the downstream . . . The world's your oyster once you have a supply chain started,” he said.

He also noted that the company has an “exciting exploration outlook” in the form of two projects located a few kilometres away from Longonjo.

“We're waiting for the markets to change at the moment, in terms of the recognition of the work that's been done, but we do believe that we tick most of the boxes at the moment for investment consideration once the current malaise is over.”

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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