First Graphite has received an industrial mining licence for its Pandeniya Graphite Project in Sri Lanka from the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau. It is the first new underground ‘A’ class industrial mining licence issued in the last 25 years and the first to include a full environmental review.

With the industrial mining licence in place, First Graphite, formerly MRL Corporation, can start mining at the project, where previous work had been restricted to preparatory work.

Managing director Craig McGuckin said, “To have achieved this is a credit to the quality of work conducted by our group and the dedication of our Sri Lankan staff.”

He said that the company would complete the installation of the shaft liner boxes at the mine, and once these were in place, First Graphite would be able to start underground mining operations later this month.

The first phase of mining operations will concentrate on the development of drives, with mining and hoisting of high-grade graphite.

First Graphite aims to develop an underground mining operation to extract high-grade crystalline vein graphite, which is unique to Sri Lanka. The company holds exclusive rights to exploration licences covering 39.500 hectares with historical workings located within nearly all licence grids.

Meantime, development at the Aluketiya project in southern Sri Lanka continues on pace with shaft sinking and headframe construction advancing on Shaft H while development work is progressing on Shaft J.

First Graphite recently announced significant widths in drill intersections at Aluketiya. The best was 1.72 metres of high-grade vein graphite over 2.81 metres.

The hole and others in the ongoing program are designed to test previously undrilled areas of the Aluketiya mining licence, which is being developed for production.

The width of the intersections suggests that Aluketiya will be a significant production area.

Craig McGuckin said, “The real significance is the mining width that quality of intercept will support. The wider the ore body, the lower the unit cost of vein graphite mined. This width greatly exceeds any of our modelling or expectations. Looking at this another way, in gold-speak this intercept is the equivalent of about 180 gram dirt.”

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