Munglinup Graphite Project
The Munglinup Graphite Project lies along the border of the shires of Esperance and Ravensthorpe on Western Australia’s Fitzgerald Coast approximately 640km southeast of Perth by road. The Project is 4km north of the township on Munglinup on the South Coast Highway, 107km west of Esperance and 81km east of Ravensthorpe.
The Project is close to the Port of Esperance which handles bulk grain and mineral exports and currently supports the export of nickel concentrates and iron ore from mining operations in Western Australia. Esperance has a regional airport with 3 flights per day to and from Perth. The flight time is approximately one and a half hours. The Project is 610km by road from the Port of Fremantle, from which it would export its graphite concentrate product.
A Pre-Feasibility Study (“PFS”) was completed in May 2018 and the financial metrics from the PFS demonstrated robust project economics. Munglinup Graphite Project Pre-Feasibility Study.
Following completion of the PFS, MRC made the decision to proceed directly to a Definitive Feasibility Study (“DFS”) based on the same project sizing as developed during the PFS. Munglinup Graphite Project Definitive Feasibility Study.
Geology and Resource/Reserve
The Munglinup graphite deposits occur as discrete layers in a zone of graphitic schists within a sequence of hornblende and hornblende-garnet gneisses. The rocks have been broadly folded about a WNW/ESE axis, with superimposed minor anticlinal and synclinal flexures. Complex small-scale folding and faulting is common in the relatively incompetent graphitic rocks and the enclosing competent hornblendic gneisses appear to be less deformed.
Targeted graphitic mineralisation occurs within saprolite consisting of clays, quartz, graphite (up to 42% flake) and goethite. Weathering extends down to at least 60m.
MRC has undertaken two additional drilling programs and re-estimated the Mineral Resource since acquiring the Project. The latest Mineral Resource has been prepared in accordance with the 2012 JORC Code and is estimated at 7.99 million tonnes at 12.2% Total Graphitic Carbon (“TGC”) using a 5% cut-off.
- Mineral Resource estimated at a 5% TGC cut-off.
- Ore Reserve uses a variable cash flow cut-off grade.
- Ore Reserve flake size distributions are for recovered graphite product.
- In-Pit Resources comprise Inferred material inside the designated pit designs using a variable cash flow cut-off grade and do not constitute part of the Ore Reserves.
Traditional truck and hydraulic excavator operation during day shift, on a 5/2 roster. Run of Mine (“ROM”) operations will continue 24/7 and be owner operated, managed by the process plant. This arrangement will reduce noise/light issues and be more attractive to potential employees. This will also enable employees to reside in Esperance and operate on a daily bus-in/bus-out plan.
Annual material movement is planned to be limited to 3.5Mt per annum for the first three years of operation then reducing to a maximum of 3Mt per annum.
A 480kg bulk run produced a concentrate with a distribution close to that achieved i the smaller bench scale tests. The coarse flake fraction contained 48.6% of the mass with a TGC grade averaging 95.8%. The fins accounted for 51.4% of the mass with a TGC grade averaging 96.0%.
MRC is working on a range of purification technologies and benefits from its existing production status which allows for R&D into a range of options rather than preemptively selecting one.
The current methods for producing high purity graphite from naturally-occurring deposits can involve using environmentally harmful fluoride-based substances to remove impurities. These come with high costs for processing and stringent safety and environmental compliance regulations.
Precursor and active battery material suppliers are under increasing pressure to lower the carbon footprint and environmental impact of their supply chain, making fluoride-based purification increasingly more unattractive as a purification methodology.
In August 2019, MRC successfully led a $2.6M Australian Research Application to develop a commercial-scale process to produce high purity natural graphite (99.95%) partnering with Australia’s national science research agency, CSIRO, and Doral Fused Materials to develop a more environmentally friendly and lower cost production method.
CSIRO is making excellent progress on non-fluoride chemical purification of Munglinup graphite. Thus far the Munglinup concentrate is demonstrating to be very amenable to purification with four nines achieved through a range of different non-fluoride methods.