Mozambique graphite producer Syrah Resources (ASX: SYR) has produced anode precursor material, purified spherical graphite, that meets battery specifications, from its US plant.
The company said this represents a “key milestone” in its strategy to become the first ex-China vertically integrated producer of active anode material (AAM) from natural graphite.
The company’s plant in Vidalia, Louisiana, produced the precursor material, which will now be sent to potential customers and supply chain partners for testing and qualification.
Syrah Resources, which was dropped from the S&P/ASX 300 index in June, said China now produces 100% of the natural graphite anode precursor used in the production of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles as well as in other applications.
Syrah’s output alternative to China suppliers
“Syrah believes the Vidalia operation is the farthest progressed alternative source of natural graphite anode precursor material ex-China,” the company said.
It is looking to supplying customers outside Asia, including the growing US and European markets.
“Accelerated by the impacts of COVID-19, localised supply chains are increasingly recognised as offering competitive advantage and security,” Syrah stated.
“The strategic nature of critical battery minerals is growing in importance with both governments and supply chain participants.”
Anode precursor from Vidalia will be moved into AAM via toll treatment and from a furnace to be installed at Vidalia over the coming months.
Syrah operates the Balama graphite mine in Mozambique, which began production at the start of 2018.
The mine’s output reached more than 100,000 tonnes of natural graphite in that first year and was the first major new graphite mine developed outside China since the 1990s.
Natural graphite beats synthetic competitor on environmental impacts
According to Syrah, both artificial and natural graphite can be used as primary feedstock for production on anode precursor.
It has been estimated that this year, natural graphite will account for about 39% of total anode production and the proportion is forecast to reach 49% by 2025.
Syrah said its interactions with supply chain operations indicates this rise in the use of natural graphite will be helped by the material’s lower cost and “superior environmental credentials” — synthetic graphite being made from the by-product of energy-intensive coking and oil refinery processes.