Zimbabwe Mineral Profile: Graphite
Classified under Industrial Minerals, Graphite is a black to grey amorphous rock whose main constituent is carbon & occurs commonly in metamorphic rocks such as crystalline limestone, schists & gneisses. It is recognisable by its colour, foliated nature & greasy feel.
Graphite has verified deposits in Hwange, Hurungwe, Kariba and Makonde and production has mainly been from Lynx Mine, Karoi.
Uses and Beneficiation Opportunities
Graphite is used for pencils and lubricants. It is a good conductor of heat and electricity and this makes it useful in electronic products such as electrodes, batteries and solar panel.
In lubrication, it can be used as a dry lubricant or may be dispersed in a lubricating oil. They may also be incorporated into a grease product for improved lubrication.
In batteries, due to its performance as a safe and reliable material that provides sufficient energy density for many portable power applications such as mobile phones and laptops, explains its dominance as an active anode material used in lithium-ion batteries. In 2016, about 10% of global graphite production was used to produce battery anodes. This sector is expected to greatly contribute to the growth of the graphite market.
In solar production, Graphite is also crucial to silicon production due to its resistance to extreme heat. Silicon converts the sun’s rays into an electric current for powering household appliances.
It is also used for steel fabrication, lead of pencils, refectories casting and foundry facings, generator brushes, brake lining and in electrotyping
The graphite market is expected to register a CAGR of over 5% for 2016-2026 (mordorintelligence.com). Increasing demand in in lithium-ion batteries and the rise in steel production in Asia and the Middle East are the main factors that will contribute to its growth.
On the flipside, the development of substitutes in anode materials for lithium-ion batteries in the high-end applications, stringent environmental regulations and the impact of covid-19 outbreak are expected to hinder the growth of the market.
Growing usage of graphite in green technologies and the popularity of graphene are projected to other opportunities for the manufacturers over the forecast period.
The supply of natural graphite is also scarce, thus the price of natural graphite is expected to rise during the forecast period.