Mineral sands miner Mineral Commodities’ (ASX: MRC) foray into graphite is proving a valuable direction for the company, with metallurgical test work revealing its Munglinup graphite concentrate can be readily processed into expandable graphite for a range of markets.
Using conventional methods, Munglinup graphite flakes of 300 microns and above were increased to 400 millilitres per gram (mL/g) at 800° Celsius and 1,000°C.
In the smaller flake sizes of 180-300 microns, an ancillary intercalation agent boosted the flake size up to 290mL/g at 800° Celsius and 305mL/g at 1,000°C, compared to conventional treatment which returned 240mL/g at both temperatures.
According to Mineral Commodities, the results have demonstrated Munglinup graphite is expandable across “a broad range of flake sizes”.
Expandable graphite’s average volume is 250mL/g and the end market consumes between 100mL/g and 400mL/g.
With the ability to enlarge its graphite to the 400mL/g grade, Mineral Commodities claims its product is suited to the higher-end graphite foil market.
Mineral Commodities also has prospective markets for its lower volume expandable graphite that include insulation foam, fire retardants and gaskets.
Analysis of Munglinup graphite concentrate confirmed an average 97.4% total graphitic carbon. Results also revealed the graphite could be upgraded via a flotation circuit which would enhance its purity.
“These results validate our approach to look at a range of markets for Munglinup graphite concentrate and the associated value-adding opportunities,” Mineral Commodities executive chairman Mark Caruso said.
“Our development work on expandable graphite, graphene and soon to commence battery anode material studies, together with variability testing and optimisation of the Munglinup flowsheet, will provide the foundation for developing the Munglinup project as a secure, low risk, high quality supplier of graphite and related materials – a project that is not solely reliant on a single market,” Mr Caruso added.
Under the next step in the expandable graphite direction, Mineral Commodities will undertake a concept study into developing an expandable graphite plant.
Munglinup graphite project
Late last year, Mineral Commodities ventured into the graphite space after executing an agreement with Gold Terrace to secure a 51% interest in Munglinup near Esperance in Western Australia.
The agreement paves the way for Mineral Commodities to shore up a 90% stake in the project by fulfilling various conditions throughout 2018.
A scoping study was published in late November and identified Munglinup would cost A$47 million to develop and produce about 56,000 tonnes per annum of graphite concentrate for nine years.
The study projected total cash flow of A$270 million from the project.
However, the nine-year life is preliminary, with mineralisation at Munglinup remaining open in all directions.
By late morning trade, Mineral Commodities’ share price was at A$0.19, unchanged from the previous day.