Chilalo Graphite Project
Chilalo Graphite Project
The Chilalo Graphite Project is located in south-east Tanzania, within the Mozambique belt, which is well known for some of the world’s highest grade and coarse flake graphite deposits.
Chilalo is host to a high-grade, coarse flake graphite deposit, where there is a Probable Ore Reserve (5.3Mt @ 10.9% TGC) and a high-grade Indicated and Inferred Mineral Resource (16.9Mt @ 10.2% TGC). A Mining Licence for the development of Chilalo was granted in February 2017.
Since the initial discovery of Chilalo in 2014, Graphex has adopted a clear and differentiated strategy of understanding end markets and seeking to partner with strategic investors to enable delivery of the Chilalo Project. Underpinned by a high proportion of large flake material with exceptional expansion characteristics, the Company has targeted the expandable graphite market, which among many applications, is ideally suited to the manufacture of flame-retardant building materials, for which there is a sizeable market – in China alone, this is estimated to be 2 million tonnes per annum.
Fully Funded to Production
On 29 October 2018, Graphex announced that it had entered into agreements with leading U.S. private investment firm Castlelake L.P. (Castlelake) to raise up to US$80 million for the development, construction and ramp-up of the Chilalo Graphite Project.
The funding includes US$5 million from the issue of Interim Loan Notes and subject to the satisfaction of agreed conditions, up to US$40 million in equity and up to US$40 million from the issue of senior secured loan notes (Senior Funding Package). Funding from the Interim Loan Notes is available immediately, with funds being applied to satisfy the conditions of the Senior Funding Package, which, in addition to customary conditions precedent, include:
- Entry into definitive transaction documents
- Completion of a bankable feasibility study
- Additional due diligence through completion of the BFS – extensive due diligence has already been completed by Castlelake
- Resolution of issues relating to Tanzania’s mining legislation
- Execution of material contracts
Further details on the funding agreements with Castlelake, including the key terms and conditions of the Interim Loan Notes and Senior Funding Package, are set out in an announcement dated 29 October 2018.
Compelling economics – results of Pre-Feasibility Study
A pre-feasibility study (PFS) completed in September 2018 assessed a two-stage production scenario, under which stage 1 would produce approximately 58,000 tonnes of graphite product per year for the first two years of operation and a stage 2 expansion to commence operation in Year 3 that would produce approximately 108,000 tonnes of graphite product per year. Whilst the Company is confident in its ability to sell 108,000 tonnes per annum of Chilalo graphite from the outset, a staged approach minimises upfront capital and is expected to maximise value for existing shareholders.
Feed to the mill for the 8.5 year mine life proposed in the PFS is comprised of:
- Ore Reserves: 5.3 Mt; and
- Inferred Mineral Resources: 2.2 Mt.
With the potential upgrade of a further 9.5 Mt of Inferred Resources not included in the mine schedule, there is potential for a substantial volume of material to be added to the 7.5 Mt mill feed in the mine schedule. A diamond drilling program of up to 3,000m is expected to be completed in November 2018, one of the purposes of which is to upgrade the Inferred Resources to a higher confidence classification. Given the historically very favourable conversion rate of Inferred Mineral Resources to Indicated Mineral Resources, the Company has confidence that this is likely, and that a mine life significantly beyond 8.5 years will result.
Market leading product
Since 2015, extensive metallurgical testwork has been carried out on Chilalo ore. This has included work programs completed by SGS Lakefield (Canada), SGS Perth, Suzhou Sinoma Research Institute for Non-Metallic Minerals in Suzhou China and ALS Metallurgy Perth. During 2018, a series of tests were completed by ALS Metallurgy Perth and managed by BatteryLImits Pty Ltd, to optimise the flake size distribution, the results of which are shown below.
The weighted average basket price is based on information obtained from CN Docking Joint Investment & Development Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of China National Building Materials Inc, with whom Graphex has had a long-standing relationship, a reputable Chinese trading house and where possible, Benchmark Minerals Intelligence. The most conservative price estimates have been used in determining the basket price.
The ability to attract premium prices enables Chilalo to generate an industry leading margin of $1,277 per tonne.
Chilalo Ore Reserves and Mineral Resources
Chilalo is host to a high-grade Indicated and Inferred Mineral Resource of 16.9 Mt grading 10.2% Total Graphitic Carbon (TGC) for 1,722,000 tonnes of contained graphite within the >5% high-grade TGC zone. The Mineral Resource Estimate is comprised of:
Indicated Resource of 5.2 Mt grading 11.9% TGC for 622kt tonnes of contained graphite; and
Inferred Resource of 11.7 Mt grading 9.4% TGC for 1.1Mt of contained graphite.
The high-grade resource is part of the total Indicated and Inferred Mineral Resource of 53.5 Mt grading 5.6% TGC for 2.99Mt of contained graphite. The total Indicated and Inferred Mineral Resource includes the above high-grade resource and a low-grade Inferred Resource of 36.6 Mt grading 3.5% TGC for 1.27Mt of contained graphite.
The Chilalo Mineral Resource includes an Ore Reserve of 5.3Mt at 10.9% TGC for 576kt of contained graphite.
With less than 10% of the strike length drilled and the Mineral Resource open in all directions and at depth, there is significant resource upside. The exploration upside is confirmed by the existence of an exploration target tonnage of 100-350Mt at 3-11% TGC and provides potential for a multi-decade mine life.
Expandable graphite is a compound of graphite that expands or exfoliates when heated. This material is manufactured by treating flake graphite with various reagents (such as acid) that migrate between the layers in the graphite. When the graphite is heated, it rapidly expands to several hundred times its original size (the expansion ratio).
The expansion ratio is the volume of expandable graphite produced per gram of graphite product at a specified temperature. In general, coarser flake graphite typically has higher expansion ratios than smaller flakes. Producing expandable graphite is a relatively inexpensive process. Importantly, excellent rates of expansion can be achieved with Chilalo product at low temperatures.
Higher expandability, and higher expandability at relatively low temperatures, is more valuable to end users on a value-in-use basis. Testwork carried out in China has shown that Chilalo graphite possesses industry leading rates of expansion.
Expandable graphite is one of the fastest growing markets for graphite and has multiple uses, including:
- With its unique fire and heat resistant characteristics, expandable graphite is being increasingly used in the manufacture of flame retardant and thermally efficient building materials, such as insulation for example, with a rapidly growing market for these products. A video demonstrating the flame retardant characteristics of expandable graphite can be viewed on the Graphex website at: http://www.graphexmining.com.au/graphite-video-gallery/.
- The production of high-value graphite foils which are used as heat shields in electronic devices such as mobile phones, laptops and TV screens.
- The production of graphite paper used in the manufacture of heat shield gaskets and other products such as fire and thermal seals for machinery and electronic parts.
- The radiation resistant properties of expandable graphite also have military applications.
Testwork has confirmed that Chilalo product is suitable for multiple expandable graphite products including graphite foil, graphite paper, seals, gaskets and flame retardants.
Targeting the expandable graphite market
China is the major producer and consumer of expandable graphite, however is facing critical supply issues. China’s flake graphite reserves are increasingly subject to lower grades, higher costs, diminishing flake size and with the enforcement of environmental measures in China, there are increasing mine closures, further restricting supply. These factors have been behind a trend for higher graphite prices, which has seen prices increase by over 50% since the first quarter of 2017.
Graphex has strategically targeted the expandable graphite market based on its attractive growth and value characteristics. The size of the expandable graphite market, its premium prices and the suitability of Chilalo graphite for the production of expandable graphite has meant that the Company has prioritised supplying the Chinese expandable graphite market as the primary focus.
Traditional markets for graphite, such as refractories, which is the major existing market for graphite, requires medium to large flake material and is a lower growth market. While the battery market is a clear growth market, it uses fine material, has readily available supply (both existing and in the pipeline) and as a result, attracts relatively low prices.
Flame retardant building materials – a demand source that may outstrip batteries
Demand for expandable graphite is growing rapidly, particularly given its application in the manufacture of flame retardant building materials. This demand growth is being driven strongly by China, where the Government is encouraging the use of flame retardant materials in the construction of all new buildings. This source of demand for expandable graphite represents a shift from a small, specialized market, to a large volume market.
The demand for expandable graphite-based flame-retardant building materials is being driven by a number of factors including:
- High profile fires that have resulted in substantial loss of life and property – Grenfell Apartment Tower in the United Kingdom, Dubai skyscraper fires, the Port of Tianjin and the Lacrosse apartment building in Australia – with the rapid spread of such fires attributed to the use of flammable external cladding
- Chinese building regulations which mandate the use of expandable graphite based flame retardant building materials, however these are scarcely enforced due to a lack of flame retardant supply
- A review of building regulations in a number of major countries
- Issues associated with obtaining insurance for buildings that do not have expandable graphite based cladding
- The absence of a competitor product for expandable graphite based flame retardant building materials
In December 2017, at a graphite industry and graphite building materials conference held in Xingshan, Hubei Province, China, Mr Jiang Yang, Group Vice President, China National Building Materials and President, China Building Materials Application Technology Research Institute, stated that “China needs 40Mtpa of FRBMs, which will contain 5% expandable graphite”. This represents an annual requirement of 2 million tonnes of expandable graphite.