Sri Lanka Vein Graphite

Known under various names including crystalline vein, Plumbago, Sri Lankan graphite, and Ceylon graphite, “Sri Lankan” and “Ceylon” are commonly used for vein graphite since the island nation of Sri Lanka (formally Ceylon) is the only area to produce this material in commercial quantities. Serious mining and exportation of Ceylon graphite began about 1824; however, the unusual deposits of Ceylon have been known, and apparently used locally, since the middle of the 1600s.

Vein graphite is a true vein mineral, as opposed to a seam mineral (amorphous graphite) or a mineral that is disseminated throughout the ore rock (as in flake graphite). All currently available commercial vein graphite is mined in Sri Lanka.

Vein Graphite History

Vein graphite is known under various names including crystalline vein, Plumbago, Sri Lankan graphite, and Ceylon graphite. The name “Sri Lankan” and “Ceylon” are commonly used for vein graphite since the island nation of Sri Lanka (formally Ceylon) is the only area to produce this material in commercial quantities. Serious mining and exportation of Ceylon graphite began about 1824, however the unusual deposits of Ceylon have been known, and apparently used locally, since the middle of the 1600s.

Of all the natural graphite materials vein graphite is probably the most difficult to describe geologically and various theories of its origin have been presented. As the name suggests, vein graphite is a true vein mineral as opposed to a seam mineral (amorphous graphite) or a mineral that is disseminated throughout the ore rock (as in flake graphite). Seam minerals have some unique properties including their being non-contemporaneous with the country rock, steeply inclined (vein orientation), and subjected to filling by a host of minerals, especially those of hydrothermal origin. All currently available commercial vein graphite is mine.

Graphite Yard Colombo 1910

Graphite Yard, Colombo 1910

Graphite Preparation 1910

Graphite preperation 1910

Despite Vein graphite’s modern popularity, the graphite industry in Sri Lanka enjoys an ancient history, forming an integral part of the local folk culture. The lives of miners and graphite mines have been immortalised in local poems and songs. Known as miniran in Sinhala, according to historical records roughly 35,000 metric tonnes of natural graphite were exported annually, during both the World Wars.

As the only country to export commercial quantities of Vein graphite, Sri Lanka recognises the mineral’s value in creating significant foreign investment from both local and foreign private sectors. Despite Sri Lanka’s 200 year old granite history, few are aware today of the purity of Sri Lanka vein graphite. It is an extremely high grade with over 90% carbon.

Vein graphite is today, in demand for numerous industries owing to its composition. It is used in lubricants as it can withstand extreme pressure and high temperatures. Lithium batteries require graphite electrodes which are natural flake and vein graphite. With the growth in popularity of hybrid and electric cars and electronics in general, graphite demands are predicted to increase by 30-40% annually.

The word graphite is derived from the Greek gréphein meaning to write or draw. It is a soft black and metallic mineral composed of the element carbon. Though it has the same chemical compound as diamond the two minerals are very different, one of the most noticeable features being that graphite is opaque while diamond is transparent. In graphite, the carbon atoms are linked in hexagonal sheets which slide over each other which accounts for graphite’s slipperiness. However, graphite is stable within ordinary atmospheric conditions.

The carbon in most graphite is derived from living things. This organic carbon under certain conditions such as under extremely high pressure, metamorphosises to purify the organic material which produces graphite many miles underground. It is owing to this natural geological fluid to slid disposition that vein graphite deposits are typically above 90%. Vein graphite typically can measure from a few centimetres to about two metres in thickness, with the purest part being located towards the middle section.

Today, there is a surge in the demand for vein graphite as it is an integral part of modern industries that manufacture batteries, carbon brushes, lubricants and plastics amongst others. The unique properties that vein graphite have proved to be invaluable to these industries.

Features include:

  • Crystallin perfection
  • High thermal and electrical conductivity
  • Lubricating properties
  • Chemically inert
  • Resistance to oxidation and high temperatures
  • High density
  • Environmentally friendly