Investors who remember the lithium boom (and bust) a few years ago may be twice shy to enter a space with big upside potential tied to electric vehicles. But the parallels between graphite and lithium are superficial, insists Simon Moores, analyst with Industrial Minerals. Graphite, unlike lithium, supplies layers of demand, with reliable end-users in the steel industry. Meanwhile, China's production lull is making way for market entrants. In this interview with The Critical Metals Report, Moores profiles graphite miners around the world competing for the market's attention.
The Critical Metals Report: The graphite market is one commodity sector that is getting increased interest over the past year or two. What's the best way to participate in this market?
Simon Moores: Because the graphite market is dominated by Chinese companies and private companies, juniors are really the only way to participate directly in this market. The non-Chinese major players, like TIMCAL Graphite & Carbon in Canada, are part of larger minerals companies. So when you invest in Imerys (NK:PA), which is the parent company, you're not investing in an exclusively graphite-focused company. Graphite is only a tiny percentage of its business. Many of the other major non-Chinese companies in the market are private, such as Nacional de Grafite in Brazil, as well as a number of smaller private producers in Zimbabwe, Austria, Russia and Norway. Ultimately, your most direct option is to go for the juniors.
TCMR: Who are the main graphite consumers?
SM: Graphite's current demand is mainly driven by industrial uses, metal production being the most important. Steel is the main driver of the graphite market on two fronts. First is in refractories, which is the biggest end use. Refractories are used to line huge steel kilns and as protective linings in bricks. Graphite is also used as an additive, in what is called a "recarburizer." Steel demand has historically driven the graphite market, accounting for approximately 39% of the market.