Triton Minerals (ASX:TON) has achieved an important milestone in demonstrating the commercial viability of its Nicanda Hill graphite project in Mozambique with another successful commercial-scale production trial.
The company has produced high strength composite graphite materials and fire resistant polystyrene foam using the project’s Triton Mozambique Graphite (TNG) concentrate material at the Yichang Xinheng Graphite Co Ltd (YXGC) factory.
This follows on the signing earlier this year of a 20-year offtake deal with YXGC worthy US$2 billion (A$2.8 billion) and joint ventures for factories in China and Mozambique to produce enhanced graphite products.
TMG is now in a unique position to supply a broad and diverse market, having produced a full range of high grade flake graphite concentrates, graphite composite material, graphite sheets and foils, spherical graphite and graphene.
YXGC chairman Yue Bin commented:
“We are delighted with the progress to date and the strong positive results achieved at our factory with the production of the high quality TMG products.
“The long term supply of high quality TMG afforded by Triton will allow both Triton and YXGC to develop and prosper from a broad range of competitively priced enhanced graphite products destined for the diverse global markets.”
TMG is unique since the graphite readily liberates to very high purities through traditional flotation methods. It is also expandable, meaning it has the ability to increase up to 1,500 times in volume after treatment with dilute acid and heating.
Currently, China produces approximately 16,000 different types of expandable graphite products. The main markets for expandable graphite include graphite foils, sheets, flame retardants, thermal conductivity additives, electrical conductivity additives, sealing materials in critical applications of high pressure environments.
Due to the thermal and fire retardant properties of graphite the Chinese Government is reportedly planning to mandate that all building insulation use expanded polystyrene in construction of new buildings that must contain 10-15% of expanded graphite.
If this occurs, then the potential market size is significant as it would likely be implemented across the entire population base of the country. Through the China JV with YXGC and using TMG, Triton is hoping to produce flame retardant expandable graphite to assist in satisfying the future demand of this type of enhanced graphite product.
Graphite concentrates at both Nicanda Hill and Triton’s Ancuabe project (also in Mozambique) have achieved the highest levels of quality and purity without the need for chemical leaching, thus reducing the overall production costs and increasing TMG product options.
The demonstrated high quality of TMG provides the flexibility to customise and produce a broad range of graphite concentrates and enhanced products for a diverse global market. This includes a full range of high-grade flake graphite concentrates with purities of up to 99% total graphitic carbon (TGC), graphite composite material, spherical graphite and grapheme.
Triton is moving closer to its goal of vertical integration and establishing TMG as the global graphite-industry benchmark, by aiming to offer the world's lowest cost and most diversified graphite product range.
Triton has also recently enhanced the economic potential of Nicanda Hill with a recent study that indicated potential for a more rapid return on investment and increased profit margins in the near term.
This would be by a factor up to 5 to 10 times greater than export of graphite concentrate alone.
The internal assessment found that the establishment of spherical and enhanced graphite products factories at Nicanda Hill and in-country manufacturing will earn development and tax incentives from the Mozambique government.
Triton is targeting completion of the project’s definitive feasibility study by the end of 2015.
Greater portfolio scope
The positive TMG trialling followed quickly on the discovery of more than 550 metres strike length at Ancuabe where drilling and visual inspections last month found multiple mineable zones of large and jumbo flake graphite.
Continuous graphitic exposures were discovered by ground validation of a previously established electromagnetic anomaly.
Initial visual inspections indicate the mineralisation zone to be about 100 metres wide at surface and up to 50 metres in true thickness down hole.
The area comprises a number of high, medium and low-grade graphite zones and puts the company in a unique position to customise products to suit various customer demands.
The area of the discovery, known as T12, is planned to establish a resource by the end of the year.
Successful creation of graphite products using TMG demonstrates the high quality of the material, which is critical in many niche end-use segments in the broader graphite sector.
The stronger connection to Asian partners evidenced by the successful product trials bodes well for future market penetration of Nicanda Hill material.
YXGC sells a range of graphite products aimed at the electronics, battery and automotive sectors, with more than 130 Chinese clients as well as customer in 20 different countries across the globe.
Previous studies have positioned TMG as one of the lowest cost graphite materials, with the most diversified graphite product range backed by the longevity and reliable supply source of premium quality flake graphite.
Nicanda Hill’s status as one of the largest known graphite deposits in the world (1.47 billion tonnes at 10.7% TGC) provides longevity and certainty of supply to potential customers.
The recent enhancements made on the DFS still in progress at Nicanda Hill are a positive sign regarding the company’s prospects of realising a vertically integrated graphite strategy.
Growth in the potential of Ancuabe demonstrates the natural advantages of East Africa as a graphite jurisdiction and Triton’s potential for establishing multiple production streams across its suite of properties in the region.
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