Kibaran keen on Kwinana for plant

The West Australian - - WESTBUSINE­SS - STU­ART MCKIN­NON

Kibaran Re­sources has flagged plans for a $US23 mil­lion ($33 mil­lion) graphite-pro­cess­ing plant at Kwinana rep­re­sent­ing an­other lift to the area’s grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion as Aus­tralia’s Lithium Val­ley.

The West Perth-based as­pir­ing graphite pro­ducer yes­ter­day an­nounced it had se­cured a 4ha site for the plant 30km south of Perth as part of a broader strat­egy of be­com­ing a multi-hub pro­ducer of bat­tery-grade graphite, with sim­i­lar fa­cil­i­ties planned for Asia and Europe.

The plant will use the com­pany’s glob­ally patented EcoGraf tech­nol­ogy, which elim­i­nates the need for ex­pen­sive and toxic hy­droflouric acid in the pu­rifi­ca­tion process.

Kibaran said the Kwinana plant would ini­tially pro­duce 5000tpa of bat­tery-grade graphite, with a fur­ther in­vest­ment of $US49 mil­lion to boost an­nual pro­duc­tion to 20,000t.

The raw graphite would be sourced from pro­duc­ers in South Amer­ica, Asia, Africa and Europe with the end-prod­uct ex­ported to bat­tery man­u­fac­tur­ers in Asia, Europe and the US.

An study by GR Engi­neer­ing Ser­vices es­ti­mates the Kwinana plant would have a pre-tax net present value of $US141 mil­lion, gen­er­ate an in­ter­nal rate of re­turn of 37 per cent and post an­nual EBITDA of $US35 mil­lion.

Man­ag­ing di­rec­tor An­drew Spinks said the fa­cil­ity would cost 10 per cent more to build and op­er­ate com­pared with a sim­i­lar fa­cil­ity in Asia, but the ben­e­fits of a Kwinana lo­ca­tion would out­weigh the ex­tra costs.

The com­pany is hop­ing to cap­i­talise on in­creas­ing cus­tomer re­quire­ments for new, more ge­o­graph­i­cally di­ver­si­fied sources of high-qual­ity, en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able sup­ply.

Mr Spinks said the com­pany’s EcoGraf tech­nol­ogy was cheaper than the con­ven­tional pu­rifi­ca­tion process used by the dom­i­nant Chi­nese graphite pro­duc­ers and was eco-friendly.

“We think that our process sits very nicely as an al­ter­nate out­side of China,” he said.

Mr Spinks said ev­ery­thing the com­pany needed to pro­duce bat­tery-grade graphite was avail­able in Kwinana, given the var­i­ous chem­i­cal pro­duc­ers lo­cated nearby. “We think that Kwinana has a lot to of­fer in terms of meet­ing the ex­act­ing spec­i­fi­ca­tions of bat­tery-grade graphite con­sis­tently,” he said.

Graphite is needed for the an­odes of elec­tric ve­hi­cle bat­ter­ies. Kibaran will look to se­cure fund­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tal ap­provals for the plant ahead of a fi­nal in­vest­ment de­ci­sion next year.

The com­pany is sep­a­rately pur­su­ing debt fund­ing with Ger­man de­vel­op­ment bank Kfw for its $US89 mil­lion Epanko graphite min­ing project in Tan­za­nia.

Kibaran shares closed up 0.5¢ at 15¢.

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