Graphite price volatility set to continue, says Industrial Minerals Data

Prices of flake graphite – the critical mineral used in electric vehicle (EV) batteries and steel refractories – are expected to continue their volatile performance for the foreseeable future, according to Industrial Minerals Data.

Industry prices have settled well above levels seen prior to the global economic crash despite falling from all-time highs in 2011 and have exhibited erratic behaviour since 2008.

“Flake graphite supply is delicately balanced with little margin for error. China dominates global production with a 73% market share in 2012 according to our new statistics. Limited supply elsewhere together with unpredictable demand has resulted in the volatile prices seen over the last five years,” Simon Moores, Manager of Industrial Minerals Data, explained.

“We don’t see this situation changing any time soon.”

High purity (94-97%), large flake graphite (+80 mesh) – the sought-after grade for EV battery technology – is now $1,350/tonne on a CIF basis shipped into Europe. This is 64% higher than the average 2000-2009 price of $823/tonne.

Prices of medium flake material (94-97% C, -100 mesh, CIF, Europe), the more commonly traded product for industrial steel refractories, are also holding up at $1,050/tonne, 61% higher than the 2000-2009 average of $650/tonne.

“There has been a rebalancing of prices since the extreme peaks seen in 2011 when flake graphite prices nearly doubled in the space of 18 months”, Moores said.

“The declines may have come as a surprise to those newer to the graphite industry, but they have still settled at a significantly higher level than those seen before the global economic crash.”

Graphite is listed as a top ten critical mineral by the British Geological Survey (BGS) and is deemed higher risk than cobalt, lithium, copper and uranium. The mineral is positioned ninth in the BGS Risk List 2012 with a risk rating of 8.1 and is behind rare earths at number one with a 9.5 rating.

Industrial Minerals Data collects its own data including prices for the natural graphite industry. Data and analysis for both graphite and fluorspar are available via an online portal www.indmin.com/Graphite and www.indmin.com/fluorspar

Industrial Minerals has also published the Natural Graphite Report 2012-2016

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