MRL Corporation has delivered bulk vein graphite samples from its Aluketiya and Pandeniya high-grade graphite projects for testing at Wuhan University of Technology in China. Should the metallurgical tests be positive, MRL could be in position to start ramping up commercial production of spherical graphite for use in batteries later next year.
Wuhan University of Technology possesses 27 research centres, including two State Key Laboratories, a State Engineering Laboratory and provincial or ministerial level laboratories in the areas of new materials, new energy, transportation and logistics, mechatronics and automobile, information technology as well as resources and environmental technology.
The tests to determine the suitability of converting MRL’s high-grade vein graphite to premium-priced spherical graphite used in batteries are expected to take about six weeks. If these confirm that the graphite is suitable, MRL intends to issue samples to major battery manufacturers with the objective of securing offtake agreements.
Its strategy to fast-track the start of production and cash flow is underpinned by several factors including Aluketiya being already covered by a mining licence while an application for a mining licence at Pandeniya is under way.
MRL is also refurbishing some of the shafts at Pandeniya to prepare them for production.
The Aluketiya project produced high-grade graphite for several decades until the operation was stopped in the 1960s while Pandeniya contains numerous historical adits, shafts and remnant graphite dumps.
Sri Lanka is the only region in the world which produces commercial quantities of vein graphite with greater than 90% total graphitic carbon (TGC).
Aluketiya is in Meegahatenna within the Walallawita District, which is considered to be one of the richest graphite-bearing areas in the country. The project has the potential for graphite veins extending over large distances. Extensive veins of high-grade graphite are visible from surface but the area has not been subjected to any modern exploration techniques.
Pandeniya is within the broader Warakapola area, which has a long history of high-grade commercial graphite production. Artisanal miners had produced large volume of vein graphite during the 1890s to 1950s. However, these historical workings were relatively shallow due to limited ventilation and dewatering capabilities. While no systematic modern exploration for vein graphite has been undertaken, mineralization is expected to remain open below the surface of historical shafts.