Owing to the covid-19 pandemic global natural graphite production did take a hit due to lockdowns and restrictions but has since been showing rapid growth with a projected CAGR of 10% during 2021-2025. After the pandemic, global natural graphite mining and market demand have both increased and are predicted to continue to do so as graphite becomes invaluable for more and more key industries.
Basically graphite is an allotrope of carbon with layers of carbon atoms, which slide over each other giving graphite its soft quality. Stable when within ordinary atmospheric conditions, graphite is a semimetal. It is also an electrical conductor with high conductivity. Graphite is used in batteries, solar panels and it is also found in pencils, paints and lubricants. The natural mineral is also completely environmentally friendly. Super thin and super strong, natural graphite is most often found as flakes or crystalline layers in metamorphic rocks. It can also be found in organic-rich shale and coal beds. Graphite is opaque and has a dull sheen metallic of blackish silver hue which is why it is also referred to as black lead or plumbago.
Demand for graphite is ever increasing as it becomes an investment of interest because of the integral role it plays in lithium ion batteries. Increased demand for electric cars, the resumption of the global EV market, battery demand and technology updates, graphite’s use in brake linings, clutch materials and in gaskets are all key demand driving factors. Natural graphite is also used in refractories, lubricants, electrodes, steelmaking and friction products which has made the global graphite mining industry a lucrative investment.
Countries most recognised for global natural graphite production include China, Mozambique, Turkey, Brazil along with Tanzania and India and to a smaller scale Sri Lanka which has a natural source of very high quality.
Vein graphite and natural flake graphite are in demand which is why graphite producers identify major active exploration to ensure that the supply chain does not falter. Ideal locations include organic rich shale and coal beds and areas where the metamorphosis of dead plant and animal matter has occurred on a large scale.
Depending on each country and region there are a number of considerations that need to be sorted out before graphite mining. There are two recognised techniques for graphite mining, the open pit method or surface quarrying and the underground method. Based on the most suitable method for a particular location the necessary land surveys will need to be carried out and permission obtained. All legal requirements need to be seen to as well as the proper equipment and technology. Experienced staff will have to be hired to ensure that operations run smoothly and in a cost effective manner
The graphite market is showing strong returns as the demand for graphite keeps growing and has proved a speculative way for investors to diversify their mining portfolios. With the increased demand for lithium-ion batteries the demand for graphite is set to continue expanding.
The spike in graphite demand boils down to the fact that this versatile material has become integral to many modern industries such as the electric car industry, touch screens and smartphone industry and the construction industry to name just a few main areas.
Besides the industries mentioned above, graphite is used in pencils, lubricants, crucibles, foundry facings, polishes, arc lamps, batteries, brushes for electric motors and cores of nuclear reactors. Further, graphite has also shown potential as an effective nano-transporter for the delivery of numerous anticancer medicines.
Investing in the graphite market currently is appealing as the demand for this material is ever expanding especially for lithium ion batteries.