Tirupati Graphite plc, a fully integrated specialist graphite producer and graphene developer with operations in Madagascar and India, has opened its second mine in Madagascar at the Vatomina Project, where it remains on track to start commissioning the first 9,000 tpa processing plant in Q2 2021.
Madagascar offers weathered, low-cost saprolite-hosted graphite deposits with a large concentration of high-quality jumbo and large flakes and crystalline structure. (Saprolites are chemically weathered rocks formed in the lower zones of soil profiles.) This combined with free dig mining, easy liberation and flake size retention, makes Madagascar an ideal location for primary graphite mining and provides the potential for efficiency and lean mining processes, Tirupati says.
The company has begun excavation of overburden and mined the first ore for the upcoming 9,000 tpa Vatomina processing plant. A new 12km interconnecting road runs between Vatomina and Sahamamy, which will save around 5% in current OPEX towards logistics costs.
Tirupati has also begun preparations to commence the accelerated construction of Sahamamy’s next plant, which has a planned capacity of 18,000 tpa. Sahamamy, which is producing and shipping graphite globally with a product basket of >85% jumbo and large flakes with up to 96% purity, reached 97% of its current 3,000 tpa capacity in Q1 2021.
Overall, Tirupati aims to increase production capacity to a globally significant 84,000 tpa by 2024.
The opening of the mine marks the beginning of commercial operations at the greenfield Vatomina project, taking us one step further towards our goal of increasing capacity in Madagascar to 30,000 tpa by Q1 2022 and 84,000 tpa by 2024. Furthermore, we are equally delighted that our new road between our two projects, Vatomina and Sahamamy, is now complete, providing them direct access to the National Highway and thereby helping us reduce our OPEX.
As demonstrated by the huge support we received for our oversubscribed £10-million placing last week, investors are increasingly cognizant of graphite’s role in the green economy and energy transition. Given its unique properties that enable a multitude of green applications including its use in Li-ion batteries and flame retardants, the high-tech graphite industry continues to experience growing demand and tightening supply.
We therefore believe a prolonged supply shortage is likely; the opening of our new Vatomina mine will go some way to plugging the supply gap with our high-quality natural flake graphite. We will continue to achieve milestones and update the market further as we focus on fast-tracking our developments across our three businesses.—Shishir Poddar, CEO of Tirupati Graphite
Over the next 4-6 weeks, the company will strip the overburden and mine ore to commence stockpiling of feed stock for the upcoming 9,000 tpa processing plant.
Vatomina currently has a defined Mineral Resource Estimate under JORC (2012) of contained graphite of 852,000 tons, resulting in a mine life of around 14 years based on the originally planned 63,000 tpa production capacity. Given only a third of the mineralized zones have been explored to date, with the established exploration targets of between 8 to 10 million tonnes within the explored areas, and the second stage exploration program having commenced in February 2021, the company is looking to update the Mineral Resource Estimates; SRK Consulting has been engaged in this regard.