Emerging producer Battery Minerals (ASX: BAT) has signed an agreement with US-based graphite processing specialist Urbix with the aim of establishing a graphite treatment joint venture in south-east Africa.
Urbix has been a long-time technology partner of Battery Minerals and specialises in the refinement and purification of natural graphite and advanced graphite derivatives.
The agreement lays the foundation for establishing the development of an environmentally-friendly graphite purification facility in Mozambique.
It is envisaged the facility will source graphite concentrate from Battery Minerals’ advanced Montepuez project in the Cabo Delgado province of northern Mozambique, and potentially toll-treat graphite from other mines in the region using Urbix’s proprietary purification method.
Since December 2017, Urbix and Battery Minerals have been working together on a strategy combining Urbix technologies with Battery Minerals’ graphite concentrates to generate graphite products for the refractory, composites, lithium-ion and nuclear markets.
The companies said they will work together to complete feasibility study work for the proposed purification facility.
Battery Minerals managing director Jeremy Sinclair said the joint venture is timely in light of growing demand for graphite.
“There is overwhelming evidence that the demand for graphite is going to soar as the take-up of lithium batteries gains speed,” he said.
“Our proposed processing joint venture with Urbix is aimed at ensuring we are well positioned to capitalise on the demand for graphite concentrate and higher-margin processed product, which is essential for battery manufacturers,” Mr Sinclair added.
A 2017 definitive feasibility study for the Montepuez project outlined a targeted production rate of 100,000 tonnes per annum of 96% total graphite content (TGC) concentrate produced from ore sourced from the Elephant and Buffalo deposits.
The ore will be mined by simple open pit extraction methods enhanced by a sub-cropping shallow and tabular orebody, allowing ore to be mined from the near surface.
The study highlighted a “very attractive” life of mine strip ratio of 0.6 tonnes of waste per tonne of ore, providing Battery Minerals with a very low operational mining cost.
Montepuez contains a probable ore reserve estimate of 41.4 million tonnes at 8.8% TGC for 3.64Mt of contained graphite at a cut-off grade of 4% TGC, underpinning a proposed 30-year mine plan.
In early 2018, Battery Minerals signed four binding offtake agreements for up to 41,000tpa of graphite concentrate from the project, representing over 80% of Montepuez’s forecast annual production.
In the same year, Mozambique’s government granted the company a mining licence and environmental licence for the project.
At midday, shares in Battery Minerals were trading 25% higher at $0.010.