Canada-based junior exploration company Gratomic Inc says it anticipates requiring capital expenditure of N$62 million in its bid to increase the output of its Aukam Graphite facility in Namibia to 12,000 tonnes (57% increase )by November 2024 from its current kick off level of 7,600 tonnes.
Since commencing its Commercial Commissioning phase at the end of June 2023 in Namibia, Gratomic has processed 80 tonnes of material through the processing plant at a grade of 94% Cg concentrate which is being stored on-site in the storage silos.
The material has been processed and treated prior to the arrival of two pieces of equipment, “the stirred medium mill and the polishing mill” which act as the refining circuit for the Aukam Graphite plant and upgrades the material to a grade of 97-99% Cg concentrate.
The commercial phase has delivered identical results to the pilot testing done both on site and at SGS Lakefield in Canada (another Gratomic asset).
“The initial 6-month program was hindered by the delay in receiving critical equipment; a problem which has plagued most of the industry. We are relieved to state that all equipment is now on site and being installed into the assembly line,” said the Graphite miner.
Although it only took about one week to process the material to current grade, there were several modifications undertaken to optimize the operation of the processing plant for future production. Commercial commissioning is important as it identifies bottle necks in the plant at an early stage and allow for them to be eliminated without causing any downtime to future production.
On the other hand, the Company has shown great foresight in its engineering of the facility that allows for rapid expansion in the mid sections of the processing plant as demand picks up, with the front end and back end of the facility built and engineered at full production capability. This does not only optimize expansion but also manages costs as the Company grows into full production capabilities.
The Company has stockpiled enough mined material to currently feed operations for a full year and once the final pieces of equipment are in place, it will start producing graphite at a steady pace expanding as we go until the full 22,500 tonne capacity is achieved in 2025.
If all goes well, the plant is expected to start producing in Q1 of 2024. Initial product is to be sold to a European Carbon trader initially until the product can be successfully included into the anode market.
Arno Brand, President and CEO of Gratomic stated “The past few months have been challenging and time consuming, it is with great relief that we now see ourselves in the final steps in preparation of production at the Aukam Graphite mine in Namibia.”
With the recent announcements out of China, the majority of western OEMs have been put on edge and are taking all necessary steps to bring on new critical mineral supply. Graphite has received most of the attention as it is still very much controlled by China. Gratomic has been in discussions with several new potential buyers and has delayed its product development program for a few weeks to ensure that we get all the relevant product specifications to fulfill end user requirements.
“Gratomic wishes to emphasize that no Preliminary Economic Analysis, Preliminary Feasibility Study or Feasibility Study has been completed to support any level of production. In fact, no mineral resources let alone mineral reserves demonstrating economic viability and technical feasibility, have been delineated on the Aukam property.
“The Company is working towards completing a Feasibility Study (FS) on the Aukam Processing plant. The study, its recommendations, and their subsequent implementation, will provide conclusions and recommendation at a FS level of comfort relating to the scale up of the existing processing plant to a commercial scale processing facility capable of producing the desired concentrate grades and production rates,” the company said adding that it wishes to emphasize that the supply of graphite is conditional on Gratomic being able to bring the Aukam project into a production phase, and for any graphite being produced to meet certain technical and mineralization requirements.
No mineral resources, let alone mineral reserves demonstrating economic viability and technical feasibility, have been delineated on the Aukam Property. The Company is not in a position to demonstrate or disclose any capital and/or operating costs that may be associated with the processing plant until the FS (Feasibility Study) is completed.
“The Company advises that it has not based its production decision on even the existence of mineral resources let alone on a Preliminary Feasibility Study or FS of mineral reserves, demonstrating economic and technical viability, and, as a result, there may be an increased uncertainty of achieving any particular level of recovery of minerals or the cost of such recovery, including increased risks associated with developing a commercially mineable deposit,” added the company.
Historically, such projects have a much higher risk of economic and technical failure. There is no guarantee that production will begin as anticipated or at all or that anticipated production costs will be achieved.
Failure to commence production would have a material adverse impact on the Company’s ability to generate revenue and cash flow to fund operations. Failure to achieve the anticipated production costs would have a material adverse impact on the Company’s cash flow and future profitability.