Search for graphite gathers pace as uncertainties wane

Thursday September 6 2018

Ongoing investment will make Tanzania one of

Ongoing investment will make Tanzania one of the largest graphite producers in the world despite concerns over new mining laws. PHOTO | FILE 

By BusinessWeek Reporter @TheCitizenTZ

Dar es Salaam. Search for graphite is gaining momentum in Tanzania as the mining sector recovers from uncertainties caused by reviewing of laws for the country to claim a bigger share of benefits.

The mineral raises hopes for the country to take part in powering electric cell-driven vehicles which are seen as the future of the transport technology.

Demand for graphite is primarily driven by the steel market, but the ever increasing growth in the lithium-ion battery industry is driving demand for both natural flake graphite and synthetic graphite.

Graphite’s quality as a fire suppressant — particularly in building materials — is also driving demand.

Tanzania has discovered graphite deposits in various parts of the country with Australian firms actively participating in exploration and drilling.

Epanko, Chilalo, Lindi Jumbo, Namangale, Mahenge and Nachu are among graphite projects at different development stages in Tanzania.

The recent government assurance to grant the mining licence to Walkabout Resources Ltd for its Lindi Jumbo Graphite Project is the latest development in the country’s graphite mining and the first lice since the government amended mining laws.

Several regulatory moves by the Tanzania government in the past years created uncertainty for Australian Securities Exchange (ASX)-listed miners active in the country but they now say the situation is turning around.

In July last year, the government introduced amendments to the Mining Act 2010 and enacted two other natural resources-related laws which introduced changes including potential renegotiation of agreements, a required 16 per cent free government ownership of mining projects and the right to acquire up to 50 per cent of mining companies under certain conditions.

“Of course change of laws has been the major concern in the international mining industry with the uncertainty scaring many off. However I am very proud to say that we have been the most optimistic company in the Tanzanian mining industry since the changes were made,” Lindi Jumbo Limited senior geologist Rikard Taljaard told BusinessWeek.

The $29.6 million Lindi Jumbo project is expected to produce some 40,000 tonnes/year of graphite-in-concentrate over a mine life of 20 years.

Armadale Capital also said last month that it completed a diamond drilling programme at its Mahenge Liandu graphite project, in Tanzania, with eight holes for a total of 489 m drilled, ahead of an anticipated decision to mine in early 2019.

The resource project-focussed company said “excellent core recovery was achieved” and pointed out that the mineralisation correlates well to the results of the reverse circulation (RC) drilling programme conducted in 2017.

Armadale director Nick Johansen further was recently quoted as saying that all aspects of the development work at the Mahenge Liandu project were progressing encouragingly.

“These latest diamond drill results, which highlighted high-grade mineralisation in every hole, over wide intervals from surface with up to 67 m thickness, are particularly pleasing and further reinforce our understanding of the geology of the Mahenge Liandu project,” he elaborated.

Earlier in the month, God Mwanga Gems Limited said it started graphite mining and established the first processing plant in Mirerani, focusing to churn out around 30,000 tonnes of graphite per annum.

In March this year, Tanzania granted Australia’s Magnis Resources approval for a graphite processing plant in a designated special economic zone (SEZ) to process graphite from the Nachu mine in the south east of the country.

The SEZ licence for production of value-added graphite products was the only such license to be granted in Tanzania, which is pushing for the implementation of large projects that will add value to the country’s economy and development.

The plant will process 200,000 tonnes of graphite concentrate per year from the Nachu project.

Nachu project has a 240,000 tonnes per annum capacity and a lifespan of 15 years.

Magnis Resources said this week it secured an A$11.1 million investment from AL Capital Holding, giving the firm a 4.98 per cent shareholding in the graphite miner.

Magnis told shareholders on that the funds will be used to strengthen the company’s balance sheet and allow it to capitalise on the current and future growth opportunities in the battery technology sector, and to fund the ongoing investment in the future development of the Nachu graphite project.

Last year, Australian mining company, Volt Resources, announced that an independent German metallurgical laboratory had confirmed the presence of high-quality graphite concentrate from its Namangale project.

The company said this week it received environmental approval for its Bunyu graphite project.

The company told shareholders that the environmental impact assessment certificate was the final prerequisite for the granting of a mining licence, and one of the final remaining major milestones in terms of government permitting for the Bunyu project.

In 2017, the mining and quarrying accounted for 4.8 per cent of Tanzania’s gross domestic product.

The sector is dominated by gold but in recent years, Tanzania experienced changes in exploration trends, with companies taking up graphite projects, especially after world gold prices fell.

Tanzania’s graphite projects

Ongoing investment is setting Tanzania up to become one of the largest graphite producers worldwide, despite concerns over the new mining law.

In mid-January Volt Resources raised $4.7m in capital to help fast-track the initial stage of its flagship Bunyu graphite project.

The project output is expected to reach 400,000 tonnes per annum of ore and 20,000 tonnes per annum of graphite products.

Epanko graphite project which will be capable of producing 44,000 tonnes per annum of flake graphite concentrate is operated by Kibaran Resources.

The Chilalo graphite project which is located within the Mozambique belt is well known for hosting some of the world’s highest grade and coarse flake graphite deposits.

Its average annual production is expected to be 69,000 tonnes of graphite concentrate over 10 years.

The project which has 16.9 metric tonnes of high grade mineral resource - comprised of 5.2 metric tonnes indicated resource and 11.7 metric tonnes of inferred resource - is operated by Australian resource company Graphex Mining.