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Graphite mine on track to meet growing demand

LINDI JUMBO PROJECT Significant strides have been made towards bringing the Lindi Jumbo mine to operational status

CRITICAL DEVELOPMENT The development of the Lindi Jumbo mine is critical, as the EV market is anticipated to grow exponentially in the coming years

12th April 2024

By: Simone Liedtke

Creamer Media Social Media Editor & Senior Writer

     

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In the rapidly evolving energy storage and electric vehicle (EV) landscape, the global demand for critical minerals, such as graphite, is escalating at an unprecedented rate, says Africa-focused energy minerals developer Walkabout Resources CEO and MD Andrew Cunningham.

He points out that global projections suggest a need for substantial expansion in graphite mining to meet the surging demand, with Benchmark Mineral Intelligence estimates indicating the necessity for up to 97 new mines of a scale similar to Walkabout Resources’ Tanzania-based Lindi Jumbo graphite mine, within the next decade.

The Lindi Jumbo mine has mineral ore reserves of 5.5-million tonnes, grading 17.9% total graphitic carbon, for 987 000 t of contained graphite.

This mine’s life has increased from the 20 years of the 2017 definitive feasibility study (DFS), to 24 years in the enhanced DFS of 2019, producing 40 000 t/y of graphite.

It is within this context that Cunningham notes the development of the Lindi Jumbo mine “couldn’t be more critical”, as the EV market, and other drivers of graphite demand, are anticipated to grow exponentially in the coming years, prompting an increased need for high-purity graphite for use in lithium-ion batteries.

Walkabout, Cunningham says, is strategically positioned to address this anticipated demand through its Tanzanian project, which the company expects will contribute significantly towards meeting global graphite demand, simultaneously advancing the company’s role in supporting sustainable energy solutions.

Up to now, significant strides have been made towards bringing the Lindi Jumbo mine to operational status.

This is evidenced in the successful initiation of ore processing through the crushing circuit in early January, with the project currently transitioning towards wet commissioning. With the first ore feed through the complete processing circuit expected during April, Cunningham says the mine is on a clear path to full-scale production, and these steps mark notable milestones in its journey from the construction phase, to the operational phase.

Once commissioning activities are finalised, the Lindi Jumbo graphite mine will officially become the first modern, large-scale graphite mine in Tanzania, as well as the first critical minerals asset in the country to go into full production, Cunningham adds.

Overcoming Barriers

Achieving these milestones has not been without challenges, as the project has, for example, encountered logistical difficulties, including significant shipping delays and port congestion at Dar es Salaam – a major city and commercial port on Tanzania’s Indian Ocean seaboard.

Despite ongoing port congestion at Dar es Salaam delaying freight discharge, all critical machinery for the processing circuit's wet commissioning has arrived on site.

Several smaller shipments, including backup generators and bulk consumables, reached the site in March, aligning with the completion of necessary civil work for their installation.

Additionally, to mitigate potential delays for consumables, smaller orders from alternative suppliers in Africa are being road-transported, ensuring availability before production startup.

The arrival of essential plant components, including a burner; mechanical, electrical and control equipment; as well as instrumentation cables, have allowed for the completion of minor construction and installation tasks, and readying the entire plant for first ore throughput in April.

With steel platforms, plinths, cable racking, and piping already prepared, the construction of the burner unit and the installation of electrical and instrumentation cables were completed swiftly, without significantly affecting commissioning schedules.

“Through implementing these adaptive measures, the project team has shown resilience in maintaining momentum and adhering to the project timeline,” Cunningham says, adding that all commissioning activities to date have been conducted using power supplied by mobile generators as well as the connection to the national grid.

“By opting for grid power primarily sourced from hydro and gas, the mine emphasises its dedication to minimising its environmental impact while enhancing cost efficiency. This strategic decision not only reinforces the project's sustainability credentials, but also serves as a model for future mining operations aiming to balance operational demands with environmental considerations,” he explains.

The project’s success can also be attributed to a blend of international mining expertise and local engagement, he adds, noting that the company achieved this by outsourcing key operations to specialised local contractors, with a focus on leveraging local expertise and fulfilling local content requirements.

“The core focus for the company remains achieving processing plant product quality and consistency. This outsourcing model has established strong, collaborative relationships with contractors who are familiar with the project's goals and adhere to local content standards, facilitating effective and compliant operational execution,” he concludes.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

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