Business

EOIs next week for Kahatagaha Graphite Mine

Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for an investor to undertake value addition for the state-owned Kahatagaha Graphite Mine will be called next week, according to the Ministry of Industries and Supply Chain Management.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, Ministry Secretary J.A. Ranjith said that the relevant work is being carried out at the moment and the EOIs will be open for both local and foreign investors.

The value addition will be to convert raw graphite into the highly valuable graphene.

“At the moment, we are exporting just raw graphite. We want to add value and transform it into graphene and export, which would bring in higher export earnings,” said Ranjith.

It is learnt that the vein graphite is priced between $ 1.2-1.8 per kilogramme while graphene is sold at around $ 3,000 per kilogramme. He further added that depending on the amount of investment the graphite mine receives, the capacity of the mine would be extended further.

Early this month, the Ministry sought Cabinet approval to call bids to find an investor to do the value addition for Kahatagaha graphite.

According to Ceylon Graphene Technologies, Sri Lanka is the only place in the world where vein graphite is produced in commercial quantities. The Kahatagaha mine is one of the leading producers of high-purity, natural vein graphite, where the mined graphite contains over 99% of fully crystallised carbon. The mine is unique in its low ash content and high carbon crystalline graphite.

In 2018, prices for Sri Lankan vein graphite averaged at $ 2,300 per metric tonne. Sri Lanka is currently producing 300 tonnes of graphite monthly, sourced mainly from the Bogala, Ragedara, and Kahatagaha mines. The Kahatagaha mine is in the Kurunegala District. It exports about 65-70 metric tonnes of raw graphite per month.

Sri Lanka contributes to 7% of the graphite requirement in the global market. Mining and quarrying activity contributed about 2.7% to Sri Lanka’s GDP in 2017. In the first quarter of 2018, the output value of mining and quarrying was an estimated $ 625 million with a reported 0.6% growth rate compared to the first quarter of 2017.

Graphene is a single sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal honeycomb pattern. It is about 100 times stronger than the finest steel and is flexible and transparent. It is used to develop miniaturised and super-fast computers and transistors.