China’s graphite mine count will come down, Qingdao Hensen says

By Davide Ghilotti
Published: Monday, 22 October 2018

China’s environmentally motivated restrictions on industrial activity will result in the closure of a significant number of graphite mines, unless the regime is changed, according to producer Qingdao Hensen Graphite.

The number of active graphite mines in China is likely to decrease in the near future while the country’s government continues to tighten its requirements for local heavy industries, delegates heard at the 7th Graphite & Graphene conference in London.

Haibo Mo, deputy general manager at Chinese graphite producer Qingdao Hensen Graphite, told the audience that it is probable that a number of graphite operations will be closed as long as the government’s environmental focus continues to set the agenda.

"[We estimate] there are 147 flake-graphite mines in China at present, but this number will drop due to governmental regulation," Mo said.

And the pool of existing graphite processors could reduce for the same reasons, he added. "It’s hard to develop a new mine in China now," he said.

In tier-one producing districts, such as Qingdao, in Shandong province, no new acid-treatment graphite-processing plants are allowed to be set up at this time.

The main option for new facilities trying to start operations is to set-up in industrial parks – specific areas earmarked for industrial activities, where several companies locate and can dilute some common costs for discharge systems or infrastructure. Authorities are actively encouraging this option because it can also ensure better monitoring of operating practices.

In Heilongjiang province, authorities may have been slightly more lax on inspections than in Shandong, although this is changing rapidly while the government’s environmental teams inspect this area as well.

The main focus for inspectors at the moment is water treatment, Mo said. Other aspects of the processing, such as dust production or noise, are less of a concern for now.

Low capacity utilization

There are "between 400-500 processing companies" in China, Mo said, accounting for an annual output of 500,000-700,000 tonnes per year of flake graphite.

Total capacity for flake graphite is estimated at 1.2-1.6 million tpy, he added, which points to "an actual capacity utilization rate of 40-60%."