The Caula Graphite & Vanadium Project hosts a maiden JORC Inferred Resource of 5.4Mt @ 13% TGC with recent drilling confirming associated high grade vanadium up to 1.02% V2O5. High-grade intersections recorded to date suggest extensions of nearby world-class graphite and vanadium deposits, including, among others, those developed by Syrah Resources Ltd (SYR:ASX), a company valued at ~A$1 Billion.
Initial testing results highlight the potential for Caula to be a low-cost graphite supplier to the fast-growing expandable graphite and lithium battery markets (particularly for electric vehicles). The high grade of Caula graphite will enable Mustang to generate a top-quality product at a low cost, maximizing margins and providing protection against price volatility. Additionally, results indicate that the project also has a strong potential to concurrently produce high-value vanadium products.
A scoping study of the Caula project is currently underway, on track for completion in the June quarter of 2018. Mustang’s subsequent definitive feasibility study (DFS) will build on the metallurgical testing conducted in mid-December 2017 and March/April 2018.
Pending the results of the scoping study, Mustang is committed to fast-tracking the project’s development. First graphite production is scheduled for mid-2019. From the start of operations, vanadium will also be extracted to a concentrate, which will either be sold to vanadium producers or stockpiled for future production of refined vanadium pentoxide chemicals.
Flake size and quality are crucial determinants of graphite’s value, with larger flake size and higher purity corresponding to higher prices.
Initial testing from Caula has delivered outstanding results, highlighting a unique combination of high grade and large flake size, which demonstrates Caula’s strong advantage among its peers.
The project has delivered a maiden JORC Inferred Resource of 5.4Mt at an average grade of 13% TGC (6% cut-off), for more than 700,000 tonnes of contained graphite. The exploration results included exceptionally high-grade intercepts of up to 26% TGC.
In addition, initial metallurgical test work has confirmed that Caula can yield high percentages of Super Jumbo, Jumbo and Large flakes (~55% from the fresh ore) with carbon content up to 98% through simple flotation (average of 97% C across all size fractions) and recoveries of up to 96%. Oxidised ore has also demonstrated excellent treatment characteristics.
The vanadium content of Caula ore (up to 1.02% V2O5 and 125m @ 0.42% V2O5 average) represents an additional cash flow opportunity, especially in light of the recent structural shift in the vanadium market and rapid price increases to >US$31,000/tonne (98.5% V2O5).
The main uses of vanadium are as an additive in steel production, and in the manufacturing of vanadium redox batteries (also known as vanadium flow batteries or VRB). During the last year, the supply and demand landscape for vanadium has changed dramatically, due to several developments in China: more stringent minimum specifications for reinforcing steel used in buildings, plus an increased demand for large-scale energy storage. As a result, the price of vanadium has increased steeply, making it the best-performing battery metal of 2017.
The graphite & vanadium ore of the Caula Project sit immediately at the surface, perfectly situated for low-cost, open-pit mining.
The project is located within 200 km of the port of Pemba, which has ample available capacity and links to the major processing hubs of India and China.
To a layperson, the mention of graphite brings to mind pencils. However, graphite has been traditionally tied to the steel industry, which accounts for approximately 52% of global graphite demand. For most of the current decade, demand for graphite has been growing at around +5% per annum, due to the ongoing industrialisation in China, India and other emerging economies.
Another factor driving interest in graphite is the rapid proliferation of lithium-ion batteries, which are used in everything from phones to electric vehicles. Graphite is one of the key components in lithium-ion power sources: an average hybrid electric vehicle contains up to 10 kg of graphite, while for a fully electric vehicle, this number is closer to 50 kg.
Based on the steel market alone, annual graphite demand is expected to increase by +50% by 2020, from 1.1 million tonnes to 1.5 million tonnes. Projected growth fuelled by the demand from batteries and high-tech applications is even more dramatic, with lithium-ion batteries expected to more than double the demand for graphite by 2020, to around 2.6 million tonnes.