Sovereign Services Limited, a company conducting a graphite feasibility study at Malingunde in Lilongwe, says it may ship more samples to Canada for testing if need arises.
Last week, the company disclosed to officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining that it has so far shipped 40 tonnes (about 40 000 kilogrammes) of graphite samples to Canada.
The development has raised eyebrows with Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN) questioning the quantity of the samples despite the ministry’s director of mines Jalf Salima justifying quantiy, saying it is within the required volumes needed for laboratory work.
Responding to a questionnaire on Tuesday, the firm’s country manager Andries Kruger said the sample was shipped to SGS, an inspection, verification and certification company, in Canada.
“For the time being, we have been asked to supply 40 tonnes. If more is required to finalise the test work, we will have to ship more.
“About 40 tonnes of raw material is what is required by the engineers in Canada tasked to design the processing plant,” he said.
Kruger said the sample contains about nine percent graphite which is equal to 3.6 tonnes of graphite.
Putting it into perspective, he said high quality graphite sells for about $1 000 (about K733 000) per tonne. This means that the value of the concentrate that will be produced during the test work is about $3 600 (about K2.6 million).
Kruger said assuming that 100 percent of the graphite is recovered from the ore, the cost for the company to extract, ship and complete the test work is around $600 000 9about K439 million).
The shipping of the sample to Canada alone costs $15 000 (about K11 million), he said.
Kruger said the proposed plant being designed for Malingunde will treat 600 000 tonnes per year; hence, a 40 tonne sample is quite small in comparison.
He said: “The 40-tonne sample will allow us to operate the pilot plant for only 200 hours and as we are relying on this sample to represent the plant feed we need to make sure we get this right to design the plant correctly.”
But NRJN chairperson Kossam Munthali on Tuesday said the sample is huge and has since asked the Ministry of Natural Resource, Energy and Mining government to stop justifying the shipment.
“What we need is a laboratory to do its own testing and stop shipment of raw materials for analysis,” he explained.
The company has four Exclusive Exploration Licenses (EPLs) on which it is doing graphite exploration and has a combined area for the EPLs at around 3 993 square kilometres. n