The Maniry Graphite Project has already undergone a bankable feasibility study, which posits a 10-year mine life and a 42% internal rate of return.
BlackEarth Minerals NL (ASX:BEM) has rounded out its large-scale Maniry graphite pilot program, with results indicating the Madagascan project hosts some of the world’s highest-grade, large and jumbo flake product.
Overall, the pilot program confirms the Maniry large flake graphite concentrate can feed its proposed expandable graphite production plant with JV Partner Metachem, in addition to its suitability for lithium-ion batteries.
Looking ahead, the results will support BEM as it designs the final graphite plant at Maniry and fast-tracks a definitive feasibility study (DFS).
Three Tier 1 downstream, global processing companies, which are considered major suppliers to the electric vehicle (EV) industry, have also requested plant processing samples.
Results “better than expected”
BlackEarth managing director Tom Revy said the pilot program’s completion was a milestone moment for the company.
“Not only are the results better than we had expected, they also validate our developed strategy to build a plant that can produce high-grade graphite concentrate to meet the expanding demand for graphite.
“Additionally, Maniry graphite, once produced on a commercial scale, will immediately feed our proposed expandable graphite production plant in India and also be available to meet the demand from EV manufacturers and their supply chain.
“In the short term, the data from the pilot program will be used to complete our DFS, confirm our mining licenses in Madagascar and finalise our well progressed in-country environmental and environmental, social and governance (ESG) plans”.
BlackEarth processed 54 tonnes of graphite ore to determine how the pilot plant would perform with higher volumes.
Overall, 40% of the graphite concentrate produced fell into the medium jumbo flake category, while 30% was classified as large jumbo flake.
On top of this, BlackEarth maintained an average 95.87% fixed carbon grade, which ranks Maniry graphite as some of the highest-grade, large and jumbo flake product in the world.
Ore to concentrate recovery was 85.96%, while concentrate yields came in at 6.56%. The ASX-lister also considers these achievements “world-class” and maintains these factors are consistent with low-cost production operations.
Ultimately, the pilot program confirms Maniry graphite as suitable for several uses, including the production of expandable graphite and supply to the traditional mid- and fine-flake, high-grade market.
Interestingly, though, the very high fixed carbon level also validates the concentrates’ use in the production of EV’s and the alternative energy market.
While concentrate produced to a 94% to 95% fixed carbon level is highly desired for the EV and battery production market, graphite product already processed to a level exceeding 95.5% FC is very rare in the world supply market and will achieve a material pricing premium.
Growth in demand and concentrate pricing
Recent reports have indicated a current worldwide shortage of jumbo flake graphite and a projected short-term shortage of all concentrate grades over the next few years.
As a result, material price increases have occurred and are projected to continue to grow as the strong demand for concentrate exceeds supplies in the next few years.
Indeed, the impact and explosion in demand for EV energy is fuelling a faster level of growth, meaning graphite shortages could be possible soon.
Production plans and DFS completion
Over the past two months, BlackEarth has undertaken significant work to advance its DFS. Tasks currently in progress include:
- A drill program designed to increase the company’s existing resource;
- Developing a robust and world-class production flow sheet;
- Draft preparation on an overall process design criteria and engineering and power requirements;
- Ongoing completion of a detailed environmental study, designed to provide certainty and compliance with in-country environmental requirements; and
- Updates to the company’s resource and overall valuation models.
Now the large-scale pilot program is complete, BlackEarth has secured significant technical and other information to underpin the DFS.
Environmental management and ESG
In tandem with the DFS work, the ASX-lister is working with advisors in Madagascar on an environmental plan that factors in mine development.
External consultants have also onboarded to help put together an ESG plan that aims to:
- Position BlackEarth as a leading ethical producer of critical minerals required for the alternative, green energy markets;
- Foster the development of regional training, education and health and safety programs in Southern Madagascar ;
- Exceed standards expected of governance programs and procedures relevant to BlackEarth’s industry; and
- Deliver a positive social and economic outcome for all stakeholders, focusing on the delivery of material economic improvement to Southern Madagascar.
BlackEarth maintains more details about the company’s ESG initiatives will be distributed to the market in due course.