First Australian graphite pilot plant marks new supply source for battery makers
International Graphite says it has successfully produced specialised graphite material at a newly-commissioned pilot plant in Western Australia, a first step in becoming a vertically integrated producer of the key ingredient used in lithium battery manufacturing.
More than 30 local suppliers participated in setting up the plant in the southwestern town of Collie, the traditional home of coal in the state, which houses pilot scale graphite micronising and spheroidising equipment and backed by a $2 million grant from the state government.
The Perth-based company says it is purchasing larger-scale equipment to enable it to produce material for qualification with potential international customers.
Graphite is yet to be produced in Australia on a commercial scale, though the country sits on 5 million tonnes of ore reserves, and 7.97 million tonnes of economic demonstrated resources, according to 2021 government data.
Micronised graphite is used as a conductive additive to battery cathodes, and other industrial applications, and well as being an essential step in the production of purified spheroidised graphite for battery anodes.
“By the end of 2023 we expect to be completing construction and commissioning of a commercial scale graphite processing plant here in Collie,” the company’s executive chairman, Phil Hearse said in a statement.
“By 2025, we expect to have developed a fully integrated battery anode project with feedstock coming from our planned graphite mine at Springdale, near Hopetoun, on Western Australia’s south coast,” Hearse said.
Graphite has emerged as a critical mineral essential for producing the anodes in lithium-ion batteries.
Generally, it takes up to ten times more graphite than lithium to make a battery.
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence forecasts a global supply shortages over the next decade as manufacturers search for enough material to keep up with the demand for batteries in electric vehicles, renewable energy storage and other green technologies.
Graphite passes through numerous stages of refinement to become battery anode material before being shaped, purified and coated to make it suitable for battery anode use.
China was the world’s top producer of graphite in 2021, followed by Brazil and Mozambique, respectively, industry figures show.