Graphite production at Balama to resume
After COVID-related shutdown, Syrah prepares to restart mine Metal Tech News – February 24, 2021
Last updated 2/23/2021 at 5:32pm
Syrah Resources Ltd. Feb. 22 announced the decision to restart production at the Balama Mine, a globally significant graphite mine in Mozambique.
Syrah achieved commercial production at Balama early in 2019 but decided to suspend operations there due to COVID-19. Pandemic related travel restrictions on the Balama workforce weakened graphite demand due to lockdowns; and electric vehicle sales uncertainty were among the reasons the Australia-based miner decided to curtail operations at the African graphite mine.
Currently, graphite is the primary anode material in lithium-ion batteries used to store renewable energy and power electric vehicles. These applications are expected to drive an estimated 500% increase in annual demand of this carbon material by 2050.
With roughly 16.9 million metric tons of graphite hosted in 107.54 million metric tons of proven and probable reserves averaging 15.7% graphitic carbon, Balama is one of the world's most significant sources of the graphite needed to meet the demands driven by low-carbon energy and transportation.
Much of the graphite mined at Balama will be shipped to Syrah's plant in Vidalia, Louisiana, where it will be converted into the anode material needed for rapidly expanding lithium-ion battery production in the United States.
The anodes in lithium-ion batteries are packed full of graphite that has been rolled into potato-shaped spheres and coated in a hard carbon shell.
Currently, there are no commercial producers of this coated spherical graphite outside of China.
Syrah's Vidalia facility, however, has the capacity to produce 5,000 metric tons of unpurified spherical graphite and the ability to upgrade 200 metric tons to the purified spherical graphite that meets lithium-ion battery specifications per year. With the installation of a furnace, expected before mid-year, this plant will be able to upgrade the spherical graphite to the final form needed by battery makers, which the company calls natural graphite active anode material.
While 200 metric tons per year of active anode material only represents a fraction of the current and forecasted needs in the U.S., it does represent the furthest progressed vertically integrated production of natural graphite active anode material outside of China. It also provides battery manufacturers a sample of the product to be commercially produced.
With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted and the demand for graphite growing, Syrah plans to have Balama back into production in the next two to three months.