Tirupati Graphite begins commercial production at Vatomina

Tirupati Graphite plc (LON:TGR, TGRHF.OTCQX), the specialist graphite and graphene company developing sustainable new age materials, with operations which include primary graphite mining and processing in Madagascar, and a specialty graphite, graphene and advanced materials operation in India, has today declared the start of commercial production from its  greenfield Vatomina Project in Madagascar with effect from 6 December 2021. As such, the Vatomina plant’s commissioning process is complete, with the facilities now stabilised to facilitate continuous, round-the-clock operations.

Commercial Production – Vatomina

·      Vatomina Project, which was commissioned in September 2021, has the capacity to produce 9,000 tonnes per annum (“tpa”) of flake graphite.

·      Since its commissioning, Vatomina has been debottlenecked and its new facilities are now prepared for stable commercial operations.

·      During the commissioning process, the plant has surpassed the target operational objectives, including:

o  A recovery rate of over 90%, against the targeted 85%;

o  A target product grade of up to 96%;

o  A product basket consisting of over 70% Jumbo and large flakes, which sell at a premium to fine/small flakes;

·      The contracted and in pipe line sales remain robust to achieve the sales target of 4,000 tons across the Sahamamy and Vatomina projects for second half of the year ending 31 March 2022.

·      The commissioning process included extensive, best-in-class operational training for workers recruited for the facility.

Further Expansion at Vatomina and Sahamamy

Following this announcement, the total primary flake graphite production capacity at our upstream projects in Madagascar is now 12,000 tpa, and is expected to reach 30,000 tpa by the middle of next year, before reaching 84,000 tpa by the end of 2024. 

These plans include an additional 54,000 tpa of capacity planned at Vatomina and the second 18,000 tpa module which is in construction at Sahamamy and is scheduled for completion in Q2 next year.

The project development plan at Vatomina provides for a further three modules of 18,000 tpa each, totalling an additional 54,000 tpa of processing capacity to be added over the next three years.  Importantly, these future modules at Vatomina, as well as the forthcoming 18,000 tpa module at Sahamamy, have been substantially derisked. This is because the 18,000 tpa modules will use the same flowsheet, design and equipment used in the 9,000 tpa module at Vatomina which has now achieved commercial production – which was itself scaled up from the existing 3,000 tpa module at Sahamamy. As a result, for the next 18,000 tpa modules, there is no further material design or equipment scale up required, meaning the development and operating risks for the modules has been significantly reduced.

Separately, the second 18,000 tpa module under construction at Sahamamy is progressing according to plan with ongoing refinements and  improvements in planning being made using learnings from the new plant at Vatomina.  At Sahamamy, Tirupati plans to add a pre-concentrate plant at the foothill of the mine itself, reducing the amount of haulage required across the project – which will reduce operating costs and emissions. The final concentrate processing and flake graphite finishing operations shall be located near the current 3,000 tpa facilities at Sahamamy.

Upstream Performance Outlook

As mentioned, total primary flake graphite production capacity at Tirupati’s upstream projects in Madagascar is now 12,000 tpa, and is expected to reach 30,000 tpa by the middle of next year, before reaching 84,000 tpa by the end of 2024. 

Flake graphite production and sales are on track to exceed 4,000 tons in the second half of the current financial year, having reached 1,060 tons in H1. This is expected to increase to around 20,000 tons for the year to March 2023 and continuing to rise from then. The Company continues to expect strong and growing mid-term and long-term demand for flake graphite due to its critical role in the energy transition economy.

The Company enjoys low costs and high margins from its operations in Madagascar and remains well positioned to continue to improve on its operating margins as it captures economies of scale benefits across its operations.

Additionally, the outlook will be substantially strengthened upon the completion of our acquisition of Suni Resources in Mozambique, which will provide the Company with two more advanced stage projects that have the licensed capacity to produce 150,000 tpa of flake graphite.

Shishir Poddar, Executive Chairman of Tirupati Graphite, said:

“We are delighted that Vatomina has successfully ramped-up to commercial production so quickly and smoothly.  The lessons we have learnt from this project will be captured to enhance our other ongoing and planned new capacity developments.  The significant production we are adding will transform Tirupati into a globally significant supplier of primary flake graphite and speciality graphite and enhance the Company’s trading position going forward. We look forward to updating the markets further as we progress.”

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