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Shaun Verner

AUSTRALIAN minerals company Syrah Resources is building a $A33 million graphite processing plant to supply materials for electric-vehicle batteries in the US state of Louisiana.

The Concordia Parish plant at Louisiana’s Vidalia will produce graphite anode materials for lithium-ion batteries for EVs and other products.

Syrah plans to build a 4600-square metre industrial building near the Vidalia Port, which is designed to be expanded, depending on demand.

The resources company, listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, mines and produces natural flake graphite at its Balama operations in Mozambique. This mine is set to become the world’s biggest graphite producer.

Syrah intends to ship the material to Louisiana’s Concordia Parish facility where it would be refined into high-purity spherical graphite for use in battery anodes, with a focus on customers in the automotive industry.

Syrah Resources CEO Shaun Verner said it had identified Louisiana as a preferred location for the new facility because of its strong manufacturing background, experienced employment base, extensive logistics network, and community and government development focus.

“All of these elements have been clearly demonstrated in the interactions we have had in Vidalia, and we are very positive about the long-term benefit of locating here,” he said.

Syrah Resources expects to start operations later this year.

Globally, there are 26 battery megafactories – factories that produce more than one gigawatt hour (GWh) of total capacity in one year – either in production and due to expand capacity, or with new operations due to be in production by 2021.

In 2014, there were three megafactories planned or in production.
Demand around the world for lithium-ion batteries is expected to hit 500 gigawatt hours by 2025, compared with 85 GWh in 2016.

Tesla alone has said it is expanding its plant in Nevada to have a production of 150 GWh, placing more demand on raw materials including lithium, cobalt and graphite.

By Neil Dowling