Tirupati Graphite completes the commissioning of the first of four modules at Vatomina

Tirupati Graphite plc (LON:TGR), the fully integrated, revenue generating, specialist graphite producer and graphene and advanced materials developer, has advised that it has completed the installation and commissioning of its first 9,000 tpa flake graphite module at its Vatomina Project in Madagascar. 

Highlights

·    Completed the installation and commissioning of first 9,000 tpa flake graphite module at Vatomina, which brings the total production capacity in Madagascar to 12,000 tpa on the path to reaching total production capacity of 84,000 tpa by 2024.

·    Equipment testing, dry and wet commissioning trials completed successfully allowing initiation of ore feed and start of sellable production at start-up ore feed rate of 15 tonnes per hour (“tph”), being 50% of the plant rated capacity; ore feed rate being progressively increased up to full rated plant capacity.

·    Stockpiling of finished products commenced with first shipment to fulfil pre-orders received by the Company from customers in Europe, USA and Asia expected within 2 weeks generating first revenues from Vatomina.

·    Other ongoing activities across the two Madagascan projects include:

o  Progressing with Stage II exploration and drilling programmes initiated in February 2021;

o  Extension of internal infrastructure and roads, including a road connecting the two projects;

o  Redevelopment of the Sahamamy hydropower plant to a 100-kilo watt capacity; and

o  Initiation of activities for the development and advancement of construction of the second 18,000 tpa module at Sahamamy.

Shishir Poddar, CEO of Tirupati Graphite, said, Shishir Poddar, CEO of Tirupati Graphite, said, “We are delighted to have completed the commissioning of the first of four modules at Vatomina, which marks the latest in a series of investments to increase production of high-quality graphite from our projects in Madagascar to support world demand and continue the expansion of our production capacity up to 84,000 tpa by 2024. This is a commendable achievement for the Company given the procurement and logistics challenges that were faced by the team whose tireless efforts enabled us to successfully execute our plans to upscale the plant capacity to 9,000 tpa and get into production. This is an important milestone as it now brings both our Madagascan projects into operation and advances us on our journey of becoming a material global supplier of sought-after Madagascan flake graphite.

“We recently announced 12-month trading results from our 3,000 tpa Sahamamy plant, which further demonstrated the low-cost advantage we possess in our operations. With 12,000 tpa of production capacity (i.e., 4x increase from current) now operational, we expect the unit cost of production to be improved, which will lead to an enhancement on the c.57% gross operating margins that was achieved at Sahamamy, as the production output at Vatomina ramps up to the full rated capacity of 9,000 tpa.  The start of production at Vatomina provides us with additional revenues and operational margins, which will be used to partially fund our development funding costs going forward.

“Our recent announcement regarding the impending acquisition of a portfolio of advanced stage graphite assets in Mozambique will, if completed, boost our mineral resource base by over 152 million tonnes @ 8.5% TGC, complementing our existing mix of predominantly jumbo and large flake graphite products from our Madagascan projects. We continue to rework the development plans for these projects and look forward to updating the market as we progress to secure the approvals for completion of the acquisition.” 

Details

The Company remains focused on strengthening its primary mining and processing in Madagascar where it operates two high-quality flake graphite projects, Sahamamy and Vatomina, which are being developed using a modular approach that provides the flexibility to respond to evolving graphite market conditions. 

Having commenced production at Sahamamy in March 2019, Tirupati has now completed the installation and commissioning of its first 9,000 tpa flake graphite module at Vatomina, which brings the total production capacity in Madagascar up to 12,000 tpa.  Notably, both projects offer a favourable larger flake size distribution, which is priced at a considerable premium to smaller size flakes and is being sold to customers globally. As previously announced in the Company’s trading results (refer RNS dated 24 August 2021), the ‘Average Selling price per MT of Production’ achieved was US$801/£605. Under the Company’s medium-term development plan, total capacity in Madagascar is planned to increase to 84,000 tpa by 2024. 

The plant’s design, construction and installations were undertaken by the Company using its demonstrated capabilities and experience with the development, construction, implementation, and operations of the 3,000 tpa module at Sahamamy. Major activities included, but were not limited to:

o  Construction of circa 22,000 square feet (“ft2“) of covered buildings including the main plant building, engineering centre, stores, office building and residential accommodation buildings and associated facilities;

o  Design of the raw material crushing and feed system tailor made for the saprolitic ore type from the projects, which were manufactured at the engineering centre by the Company at the plant site;

o  Two Self Attrition Graphite Extractors (‘SAGE’) units installed in a series, SAGE is a proprietary equipment designed and manufactured by the Company’s founders that removes sand from the graphite ore at the first stage or the process and is being successfully used at Sahamamy;

o  A set of milling and flotation equipment which are the key processing circuit components in the process plant to enrich the flake graphite up to 96% purity;

o  Installing dewatering, drying, screening, blending and magnetic separator systems for finishing of flake graphite products that are tailor-made to customer requirements;

o  Installing an electrical system that included 61 electrical motors of ratings ranging from 1 Horsepower (‘hp’) to 50 hp for a total >530 hp; 12 electrical control and supply panels; 3 diesel generator sets with combined capacity of c.900 Kilo Volt Amperes; and over 3 circuit kilometres of flexible copper cabling;

o  Installing a set of input water, process and tailing pumps integrated with c.3 kilometres of water and tailings line piping.

o  Set up of a Quality Control Laboratory with capacity to test >75 graphite ore, process and finished product samples per day and perform microscopic studies of ore and finished products which is planned to be strengthened further with X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and similar equipment to meet advanced testing requirements of the Company’s high-tech customers.

o  Two mining pits have been opened and supplying ore to the ROM pad and feedstock to the process plant (see RNS dated 21 April 2021).

The commissioning and start of production processes included a series of dry trial runs for each plant equipment followed by the entire processing plant.  Wet runs were then executed equipment wise and for the entire process plant, after which feed of ore and start of sellable production was initiated at start-up ore feed rate of 15 tph, being 50% of the plant’s rated capacity. All equipment testing, dry and wet commissioning trials were completed successfully with no material defects requiring rectification. The ore feed rate is being progressively increased up to the plants rated capacity as production output ramps up to full plant capacity over the coming 4 to 6 weeks.

The capacity of the first module at Vatomina was upscaled to 9,000 tpa in February 2021 (see RNS dated 8 February 2021), in response to increased demand. Additional work to upscale the capacity included:

o  Increasing the planned constructed area from c.15,000 ft2 to 22,000 ft2;

o  Modification of the previously received flotation equipment to upsize capacity;

o  Addition of a larger primary mill, two higher capacity SAGE units used for sand separation, one flotation cell, a larger crushing system and additional finishing equipment;

o  Increasing the mining equipment fleet size;

o  Increasing the previously planned capacity of ancillary facilities including power generation and distribution system and water management system.

A number of other development activities continued alongside at the Company’s two Madagascan projects, which include, but are not limited to:

o  Progressing with Stage II exploration and drilling programmes initiated in February 2021 (see RNS dated 10 February 2021);

o  Construction of additional and strengthening of existing internal infrastructure and roads, including a road connecting the two projects (see RNS dated 21 April 2021);

o  Redevelopment of the Sahamamy hydropower plant to a 100-kilo watt capacity (see RNS dated 8 March 2021);

o  Initiation of activities for the development and advancement of construction of the second 18,000 tpa module at Sahamamy (see RNS dated 29 June 2021).

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