ASX-listed Syrah Resources, developer of the new Balama graphite mine in northern Mozambique, reports it has been continuing to ramp up production of flake and fines graphite with increased recoveries and production achieved in February.

The Balama processing plant

The Balama processing plant (photo: Syrah Resources).

The company advises, however, that an issue has arisen regarding the dryer of the fines graphite circuit (Fines Dryer) at the Balama Operations that has caused damage to the Fines Dryer refractory bricks and the flame tube. The coarse flake graphite circuit dryer (Flake Dryer) is independent of the Fines Dryer and continues to operate and fines graphite can be rerouted to the Flake Dryer such that production can continue whilst the Fines Dryer is being repaired.

Syrah says it is currently investigating the cause of the issue and planning repairs to mitigate production impacts with the assistance of the Fines Dryer vendor. The company’s current best estimate of the period of time for repair is eight weeks. The cost of the repair is not expected to be material. While the Fines Dryer is not operational, Syrah expects to produce approximately 65 % of the volume planned for ramp up during this period.

In is recent report for Q4 2017, Syrah said that the construction of Balama was essentially complete with the construction and commissioning teams having demobilised and site responsibilities handed over to the operations team on 1 January this year. The company said the final project capital cost was US$215 million.

First production from Balama was achieved in November last year with customer shipments commencing in January. More than 3 000 tonnes of bagged saleable flake and fines product had been produced by 27 January. Target production for 2018 is between 160 000 and 180 000 tonnes. Production in 2019 is expected to be between 250 000 and 300 000 tonnes subject to global market demand.

According to Syrah, mining operations continue to progress well with pre-stripping of the Balama West ore body complete and steady state ore mining occurring with plant feed grades now averaging approximately 15 % total graphitic carbon. A small section of hard rock cap will require drill and blast during H1 2018. Mining is expected to be free dig thereafter.

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