Why graphite is crucial to global green transition

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Highlights

  • Natural graphite is found in two commercial varieties –crystalline (flaky) graphite and amorphous graphite.
  • The incorporation of low-carbon emission technologies would require the extraction of large quantities of minerals.
  • The world would require 25-times more graphite by 2040 relative to the 2020 level, under the sustainable development scenario.

The world is in dire need of a rapid  energy tansition in order to limit the rise in global temperature. This transition cannot be driven without harnessing renewables like wind, solar, tidal, geothermal energy. In addition to this, electric vehicles (EV) have also been playing a significant role in curbing the emission levels.

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Low-carbon emission technologies

The incorporation of low-carbon emission technologies would require the extraction of large quantities of minerals, which are used in their production. Though new energy technologies use several minerals in different proportions, EV battery minerals are among the most demanded ones.

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Graphite is one such energy transition mineral that is extensively used as an anode in lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), eventually used to power EVs, electronic gadgets, and other portable devices. Apart from this, graphite is traditionally used in the manufacturing of crucibles, foundries, pencils, etc. Graphite is also used in the manufacturing of steel, glass, cement, greases, brushes, brake lining, etc.

Notably, natural graphite is found in two commercial varieties—crystalline (flaky) graphite and amorphous graphite. The quality of both graphite types depends on their carbon content.

As per estimates made by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world would require 25-times more graphite by 2040 compared to its 2020 level, in order to drive sustainable development. The EV sector would alone require 3,569kt of graphite by 2040 relative to 140kt in 2020, recording a growth of more than 460 times.

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Current world scenario

As per the records by the Government of India, Ministry of Mines (2020) data, the global resources of graphite were believed to exceed 800Mt of recoverable reserves. At the same time, the global reserves of graphite have been placed at 300Mt, among which China and Brazil accounted for 30% and 24%, respectively.

On production front, China is said to be the leading graphite producer with a share of more than 60% followed by Mozambique, Brazil, and India.

Major players in the graphite sector

The major players in the sector are as below:

Leading Edge Materials Corp. (TSXV: LEM)

Leading Edge is a Canada-based company, engaged in developing critical mineral assets in the European Union. The company is focussed at the Woxna Graphite mine and processing plant in Sweden.

Syrah Resources Limited (ASX: SYR)

Syrah (ASX: SYR) is an Australia-based graphite miner. The company owns and operates the world's largest and lowest cost graphite mine (Balama graphite mine) in Mozambique.

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Triton Minerals Limited (ASX: TON)

Triton (ASX: TON) is again an Australia-based miner, engaged in the development of Mozambique's Ancuabe Graphite Project. In 2019, China’s Jigao International Investment Development Co invested AU$19.5 million into Triton Minerals to become a strategic partner.

Bottom Line

The incorporation of green energy and low-carbon technologies has increased the demand for various transition minerals including graphite. The demand for graphite is anticipated to increase by 460 times by 2040.


 


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