BlackEarth Minerals NL (ASX:BEM) has started drilling at Maniry Graphite Project in southern Madagascar targeting additional high-grade resources to boost the current JORC resource of 20.2 million tonnes at 6.51% total graphitic carbon content (TGC).

This follows the completion of preparatory planning and trenching with the initial 1,000 metres of diamond drilling targeting Razafy Northwest which was identified as a high priority target following initial trenching completed in early 2019.

The company plans to release an updated resource estimate in the third quarter of 2021 and an expanded JORC resource can position BlackEarth as one of the largest graphite concentrate developers in Madagascar.

“Only scratched the surface”

BlackEarth managing director Tom Revy said: “We are extremely pleased with what our current exploration activities have presented us to date.

“Recent and ongoing trenching is allowing us to target our diamond drill program with significant confidence.

“What this program is clearly demonstrating to us, is that we have only scratched the surface of what is a very large graphitic system.”  

In Q1 of 2019, BEM undertook trenching at Razafy Northwest which returned assays that included 48 metres at 10.22% TGC and 12 metres at 13.32% TGC.

The results highlighted the potential for further high-grade resources proximal to the defined Razafy resource and ultimately the potential to further enhance the value of the project.

“Extraordinary” potential

BlackEarth is working towards supplying the predicted massive growth in demand from the growing electric vehicle (EV) market and other alternative energy markets.

Revy added: “As the company continues its path through the Maniry DFS, the potential of our graphite project is extraordinary – the size of the district, the quality of outcomes to date and the value that lies before us.

“The three-prong strategic approach we have adopted – focused exploration, completion of the DFS and downstream processing – is all starting to come together nicely”.

The drill program will also provide further detail to downstream processing partners for planned future product supply.

Projected growth in demand for graphite.

Downstream processing plans

Successful completion of the current drill program will also assist the company in finalising and further developing its downstream processing plans.

Expanding the company’s resource of large and jumbo, and also fine flake product, allows additional value to be attributed to the assessment of downstream graphite production options.

As of today, the company continues to assess a number of downstream processing options and the additional value of an upgrading resource will assist the company and its MOU and sales and marketing partners to advance these plans.

The demand for graphite continues to grow and expand, and the company is well-positioned to enter a number of supply markets with its superior and premium products.

Meeting massive global demand

Madagascar achieved the highest growth of graphite exports globally with an increase of almost 50% for the period 2012-2019 to achieve 9% of the total worldwide export market.

This compares to China’s increase in exports for this period of 4%, according to Global Trade Magazine.

The market share is likely to increase given recent project developments in Madagascar and the ongoing world demand for large and jumbo flake graphite which is largely sourced from Madagascar.

Madagascar graphite region developing

The southern Madagascan region continues to grow and develop as a premium precinct for large and jumbo flake graphite.

This region has a favourable climate, with less interruption to production and infrastructure by seasonal climatic changes and the cyclone season that often impacts the north and east of the country.

The southern Madagascan corridor has, over the past decade, enjoyed massive levels of exploration and development of potential mining sites including those held by the company and the developing Molo Project held by Nextsource Materials Inc (TSE:NEXT) (OTCMKTS:NSRCF) (FRA:1JW) which has a current market capitalisation of circa A$186 million.

Rio Tinto Limited’s (ASX:RIO) (OTCMKTS:RTNTF) $1 billion minerals sands project is also within the southern Madagascar development region. Adjacent and closest to the company’s projects is the port city of Fort Dauphin which was the first French port city developed in Madagascar.

The port is a modern deepwater port built by the World Bank and Rio Tinto in 2009 and is well designed and suitable to the cost-effective export of graphite concentrate.

The company is in discussions with port operators and is well-positioned to secure exclusive access agreements as and when required.

Map of Madagascar and proximity of the company’s projects to developed infrastructure and other progressed graphite sites.

Donnelly River update

At the Donnelly River Nickel-Copper-PGE Project in Western Australia, processed data was received last week from UTS Geophysics following the completion of the VTEM program.

This survey incorporates chargeability, conductivity and magnetic susceptibility measurement simultaneously to better understand/characterize the rocks undercover and at depth.

The processed data is now with Southern Geoscience Consultants for analysis and interpretation, with an aim of delineating the next phase of exploration at Donnelly River.

This report is expected to be received within the next three weeks with outcomes and future activities to be announced in due course.