Australia isn't a producer of graphite (yet), but three states in the country are home to millions of tonnes of reserves and resources.
Graphite has been growing in popularity in recent years as its applications as a battery mineral are realised, and as the popularity of electric vehicles grows around the world.
A form of carbon, graphite is a good conductor and is invaluable in electronics. It comes in three different forms, each with their own valuable applications in modern technology, making it a sought-after commodity without which supply lines for many industries around the world would grind to a halt.
Graphite isn't produced in Australia (yet), but the country sits on 1.05 million tonnes of ore reserves, and 7.14 million tonnes of economic demonstrated resources (EDR), as per 2017 government data — and those numbers are way up from the previously disclosed data from Canberra in 2013.
But back to Australia, whose graphite reserves and EDR are shared between three states: Queensland, with 1.32 million tonnes EDR, South Australia, where 4.72 million tonnes EDR can be found, and Western Australia, which is home to 1.1 million tonnes EDR.
Exploration is on the up in Australia and around the world for graphite, with demand for the mineral set to grow thanks almost solely to the proliferation of electric vehicles.
The Australian government is cognizant of this development, reporting that it is confident interest in the mineral will not only remain high, but will increase as time goes on. In fact, graphite is classified by the nation's government as a critical mineral, and the country has dedicated significant resources to researching market gaps and opportunities available.
Graphite in Australia: Potential producers
The government has identified five projects between Western Australia and South Australia that have the potential to bring Australia to the table when it comes to production.
However, as of the most recent government report, none of them are producing. One asset is being explored, another is in the prefeasibility stage and the remaining three are in the feasibility stage.
The most developed projects appear to be Mineral Commodities' (ASX:MRC) Munglinup project in Western Australia, where a definitive feasibility study was completed in early 2020, with a final investment decision targeted in 2023, and Renascor Resources' (ASX:RNU) Siviour project on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, which has a final investment decision slated for 2022.
Renascor has hopes for production to begin by the end of 2023, and has signed memorandums of understanding for 100 percent offtake agreements. The company boasts that Siviour, which had a definitive feasibility study completed recently — is the world's second largest proven reserve of graphite, and the largest graphite reserve outside of Africa.
For its part, the Munglinup project in Western Australia is Mineral Commodities' second major graphite project, behind its flagship Skaland project in Norway. Munglinup is in the far south of Western Australia, near the port city of Esperance — giving it fantastic transport options.
Both Munglinup and Siviour, if they proceed in coming years, would produce 132,000 tonnes of graphite between them in the early stages — putting Australia well and truly on the leaderboard globally when it comes to graphite production.
The remaining projects — though not as developed or as far along with investment planning — would add another 178,000 tonnes of graphite production if they are constructed as envisaged.
As boasted by the Australian government, "the only direction for Australia's graphite production is up" — though that is indeed a reflection of the fact that current graphite production is exactly zero.
More broadly, Australia is positioning itself to take advantage of wider industry gains across the electric vehicle market, and to present itself as a reliable trading partner. Graphite, like rare earths, is classed a critical mineral by both Australia and the US — and its use extends beyond technology and into national security as well given its applications as a heat-resistant material.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Scott Tibballs, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.