Mozambique has attracted significant investment from such mining giants as Vale and Rio Tinto as well as smaller players exploring for gold, rare metals and now graphite as well. Australia’s Triton Minerals (‘Triton’) is one of the companies sharing in the optimism promoted by Mozambique and by the prospects for graphite. Triton (ASX: TON) is developing what is increasingly appearing to be a world class graphite deposit at its Balama North Graphite Project in Mozambique. The resource at Balama is rich in volume and it is of a consistently high grade, medium to coarse flake variety of graphite that should be readily upgraded to the kind of purity levels to address the fast rising number of battery and alternative energy applications, driving demand for flake graphite. Triton has completed various phases of exploration programs in 2013 and in all cases, the Company reported that it obtained high grade of graphite. Much of the Balama graphite deposit is largely visible as it rises above ground, reducing the need for costly drilling.
The identified graphitic zones show significant width in many cases with concentrations as high as 28.6% of graphitic carbon (gc) near the surface. Triton also observed high grade graphite mineralization extending over the adjacent Nicanda Hill prospect, including gc grades ranging from a low of 8.19% to 18.7%. Triton says it is very encouraged by the results and confident about the being able to delineate “a significant resource” at both the Nicanda Hill and Cobra Plains prospects, including large flake graphitic zones. Triton also performed reconnaissance rock chip sampling in some areas of the Charmers and Black Hills prospects, which have also yielded favorable results including graphitic carbon assays ranging from 15.1% to 18.9%; in addition, the samples demonstrated many similarities to rock chips from the Nicanda Hill project, which has shown graphitic carbon grades of up to 28.6%. The combination of results from the various exploration targets at Nicanda Hill, Cobra Plains and Charmers suggest that Triton is sitting on a significant deposit. Triton believes it has gathered sufficient data to prepare a JORC resource estimate for the Cobra Plains part of the project, while proceeding with the exploration and drilling of the other identified targets. Overall, as noted by CEO Brad Boyle, Balama North has the potential to host a series of world class graphite deposits.
Graphite is finding an ever growing number of applications and this commodity will not only continue to generate demand in refractory materials but also in the development of batteries, where the material holds a dominant position. This has raised an exciting and dynamic market prospect for graphite in the coming years. Graphite is not always available in the desired quality and quantity just anywhere and as Chinese authorities has become more sensitive to environmental problems – China currently supplying 70% of flake graphite – supplies will need to increase in the coming years to meet increased demand. Therefore consumers will ever more beyond China for new supplies.
Mozambique is proving to be one of the most important new sources of graphite supply. The fact that the German multinational Graphit Kropfmuhl has revived its Ancuabe graphite mine in northern Mozambique – it had been closed in 1999 due to a combination of falling graphite prices (from $1,300/ton to $450/ton) and rising costs of electricity generation costs – testifies to Mozambique’s graphite potential. Mozambique is one of Africa’s main mining destinations and graphite is quickly emerging as one of its most coveted resources. There is still a way to go to fully develop Mozambique’s graphite industry; however, infrastructure and manpower are improving thanks to foreign investment in the mining sector in general. The government of Mozambique has started to offer fiscal incentives to attract more mining companies, looking to sector as a vehicle, or an opportunity, to lead the country’s economic development efforts. Last year, the Mozambican parliament passed a new and ambitious anti-corruption law to ensure continuity in development aid from foreign donors and to make investment rules more transparent. The country is rich in resources such as coal and has a long coastline on the Indian Ocean marked by good ports such as Nacala and Beira which facilitate export.