The graphite industry entered 2012
on a positive note with prices still high and both miners and
carbon materials producers riding high on the surge of interest
Exports of natural graphite from
China decreased 30.7% year-on-year in February to 18,686
tonnes, according to data released by Chinese Customs,
representing the fifth consecutive monthly decrease in export
volumes, making them lower than any period in 2010 and
The total export value reached
$20m, a 71.6% increase on the corresponding
period in 2011, reflecting the minerals price peak in the
first part of 2012.
Kropfmhl AG (GK) revealed in May that it was to restart
its Kropfmhl mine in southeast Germany and that all of
the targeted 5,000 tpa graphite produced would be used
Following a quiet June, July saw
the re-emergence of one of Canadas most notable natural
graphite deposits: the Lac Guret property in south-east
Quebec became part of newly formed Mason Graphite Inc, having
previously belonged to US iron ore miner, Cliffs Natural
Mason Graphite paid Canadian dollar
C$15m ($14.8m) for Lac Guret, which has a measured and
indicated resource of 7.59m tonnes grading 20.4% C and an
inferred resource of 2.75m tonnes grading 17.29% C.
In September, Brazilian
refractories manufacturer Magnesita Refratarios SA obtained a
licence to build a new graphite plant in the state of Minas
Gerais, south-eastern Brazil.
The plant is expected to produce up
to 40,000 tpa graphite from the Almenara graphite mine,
although a target production date was not revealed.
At the end of October, the
Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau for Qingdao issued a
formal notice preventing the approval of any additional
graphite processing plants in the towns of Pingdu and Laixi,
Shandong province, northeast China, as part of an environmental
The region is one of Chinas
largest flake graphite-producing areas and home to companies
including Qingdao Haida Graphite Co. Ltd and Qingdao Xinghe
Graphite Co. Ltd.
The order represented the first
significant restriction on the flake graphite industry in
China, and sparked speculation that further production controls
In November, Sri Lankas Board
of Investment (BoI) signed a deal with Plumbago Lanka (Pvt) Ltd
in a venture that will see the firm invest $78m during four
years to process and export graphite in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankas Esna business
advisory group will own a 25%- stake in the project, which was
the second such deal in as many months. In October, the BoI
approved a proposal by Sarcon Development (Pvt) Ltd, whose main
investor is the Caribbean-based Plumbago Refining Corp., to set
up a $15.2m graphite processing facility to produce material
The charge of graphite juniors was
largely dominated by Canadian companies in 2012, although by
the end of the year only one miner - Northern Graphite Corp.,
which owns the large flake Bissett Creek graphite deposit in
eastern Ontario, Canada - had completed a bankable feasibility
2012 was a mixed year for
downstream manufacturers of graphite materials.
Graphit Kropfmhl AG (GK),
started the year by posting profits of Û8.9m ($11.6m) for
the full year 2011, up from 6.1m ($8m) earned in 2010,
driven by high demand from the energy efficiency field.
The companys interim report
the first six months of 2012 was less positive, however,
showing a 10.9%-drop in EBITDA for the graphite business
Fellow German manufacturer, SGL
Carbon, had a more consistent year, signing a five-year
electrode supply deal with steel producer ArcelorMittal in
April, and reporting strong growth in turnover due to Asian
sales in September.
International reported declining net profits from the second
quarter of the year owing to lower sales and a fall in
Despite a Q3 dip in profits of 25%
to $30m, GrafTech CEO Craig Shular remained positive, saying
that the company was targeting full-year EBITDA in the range of
$235m to $245m, its fourth-best performance on record.
Electrode manufacturing giant
Graphite India Ltd announced quarterly increases in net profits
over 2011 figures throughout the year. The company attributed
the increases to demand from domestic and international steel
The year was rounded off by the
2nd IM Graphite Conference in
London in December (see pp. 8-9).
To avoid the cycle of unsustainable
prices followed by a sharp drop in demand as consumers turned
to other materials seen in the rare earths industry, graphite
needs new low-cost, high- quality mines to compete with China,
Stephen Riddle, Asbury Graphite Mills Inc. CEO, told
Yifei Zhang, UK representative of
Inner Mongolia Rising Group, acknowledged Chinas
dominance in the global graphite supply scenario but denied
that China was powerful within the industry since
it presently has only low-profit products and an immature
market with too much extra capacity.
Chinese graphite companies will
look to develop high-value graphite products through advanced
manufacturing techniques and patents, as well as industry
consolidation and more effective use of resources, Zhang
Delegates were also given an
insight into the potential of graphene, the industrys
much-discussed wonder material, which was
discovered in 2004 by researchers at Manchester University in
The challenge faced for graphene is
how to master its unique properties, Ian Kinloch, professor of
materials science at Manchester University, told delegates.
Although graphene is not yet
available on a bulk scale, this is changing, Kinloch said. By
2020, semi-conductors will represent its largest market,
followed by conductive inks for a range of security
applications, he forecast.
Dr Gordon Chiu, chief scientist at
the Canadian graphene development company Grafoid Inc. led a
call on the graphite mining industry to invest its efforts in
bringing the new material to market.
Without graphene, graphite will remain where it is
now, he said. To achieve a tonne-scale level for
graphene production will require the participation of a large
section of the graphite community, as the system needs a lot of