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Mineral Commodities outlines vertical integration plan

Graphite and mineral sands player Mineral Commodities has lifted the curtain on its five-year strategic plan to see the company vertically integrate itself into the battery and heavy mineral sectors.

The overarching goal is to build a larger diversified, sustainable and responsible producer whilst transitioning its global businesses from the production of concentrates to downstream finished products.

The company will primarily focus on delivering battery anodes to Europe with a secondary focus on finished garnet and ilmenite mineral products coming from South Africa.

Mineral Commodities says Europe is seeing unprecedented increases in planned production of lithium-ion batteries, driving up demand for graphitic anode.

In terms of its battery interests, the company plans to combine its world-class graphite assets in Europe and Australia to achieve economies of scale and deliver to the growing market.

Mineral Commodities appears to be picking up speed as it was recently successful in its grant application of up to US$3.94 million to advance the commercialisation of its new graphite ore-to-battery anode business.

The company holds a sizeable 9.83 million tonnes at 14.3 per cent total graphitic carbon, containing 1.4Mt of graphite across its Munglinup project in Australia and Skaland project in Norway.

Most notably, Mineral Commodities rates Skaland as the world’s highest-grade operating flake graphite mine at 1.84Mt going an extraordinary 23.6 per cent graphitic carbon.

As part of its five-year plan, the company aims to grow its graphite resources and reserves and has recently made headway by identifying new targets at prospects near Skaland and further targets at Munglinup picked up by an electromagnetic survey.

Management aims to accelerate the development of its Australian asset with a final investment decision targeted for the second quarter of 2023 and is targeting downstream graphitic anode product qualification for the same period. It plans to have commercial-scale plants in operation by 2024.

In terms of its mineral sands assets the company holds 562 million tonnes at 6.6 per cent total heavy minerals, containing 37Mt of in situ heavy mineral across its Tormin and Xolobeni mineral sands projects in South Africa.

Plans exist to transition into higher-value finished products in 2023 and grow resources in addition to improving the efficiency, flexibility and scale of its operations.

Whilst not as headline-grabbing as the electrification revolution, mineral sands play a role arguably as ubiquitous.

Titanium dioxide – a key product from heavy mineral sands – is a principal feedstock of titanium pigment production. The pigments are used for the manufacture of paints, coatings plastics and toothpaste to name a few.

Titanium dioxide is also used in specialist applications from industrial uses to aerospace applications.

Interestingly in November 2021, Pan-European banking group UniCredit Chief Economist, Erik Nielsen said the European Union had formed a “battery alliance” with “some 24 battery gigafactories” to be established domestically.

Nielsen also suggested the increased capacity would be enough to equip about 9 million electric vehicles per year.

Volkswagen is said to be setting up six of its battery factories in Europe by 2030 and the business magazine Bloomberg reports Swedish car manufacturer plans to build a third factory in Europe in 2025.

With all the action set to occur in Europe, companies such as Mineral Commodities are trying to position themselves to catch the early wave.

Is your ASX-listed company doing something interesting? Contact: matt.birney@wanews.com.au

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