NextSource begins graphite production in Madagascar

Construction of the Molo graphite mine in Madagascar. (Image courtesy of NextSource Materials.)

Shares in NextSource Materials (TSX: NEXT) shot up on Thursday after the company announced first production of graphite concentrate at its Molo mine in Madagascar.

The Canada-based producer, which has patented its graphite concentrate under the SuperFlake  brand, said that phase one of operations at Molo were being optimized to reach the mine’s nameplate production capacity of 17,000 tpa of graphite concentrate.

“As we ramp up the production stage of operations, the company is in the enviable position of transitioning into a significant and sustainable global producer of high-quality graphite and anode material just as demand for their use in lithium-ion batteries is growing exponentially,” chief executive Craig Scherba said in the statement.

NextSource said it expected to sell all graphite produced at the mine through existing offtake agreements, which include Germany’s thyssenkrupp Materials Trading GmbH and the company’s Japanese technical partner.

The announcement comes at at time when car makers, including Tesla, Ford, and Mercedes Benz, are rushing to lock in graphite supply from outside dominant producer China.

According to consultancy Project Blue, electric vehicles this year are forecast to account for more than 50% of the natural graphite market for the first time.

NextSource, which is also building its first processing plant in Mauritius, is known to be in talks to sell its supply to automakers, but details of the negotiations remain confidential.

The company’s shares were up 3% to C$2.13 at 9:30 am Toronto time, leaving the miner with a market capitalization of about C$266 million ($202m). Year-to-date, the stock has lost almost 29% of its value.