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Canadian mining company NextSource Materials has initiated commissioning of its first mine – the Molo graphite operation in Madagascar.

The mine will transition NextSource into a global graphite producer at a time when graphite consumption is increasing sharply, owing to the explosive growth in demand for lithium-ion batteries.

“Commissioning of the Molo graphite mine is a testament to the hard work and perseverance of our employees and contractors who have brought this project from design through to implementation in the midst of a global pandemic and shifting geopolitical landscape,” said CEO Craig Scherba.

NextSource is taking advantage of the market opportunity in graphite by creating a substantive niche for itself within the global lithium-ion battery supply chain. Not only is it commissioning its first mine, but plans are afoot for the construction of its first battery anode facility (BAF).

Last month, the company announced its BAF expansion strategy and the results of a technical study for its first BAF (BAF1), located in Mauritius. Mauritius was selected due to its close proximity to the Molo mine in Madagascar and its position on strategic shipping routes to key markets.

NextSource reported that front-end engineering design and environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) permitting was now in progress, and that it was in active discussions with strategic offtake partners and debt and equity financiers, which expressed an interest in funding the BAF1 construction.

Subject to obtaining the necessary funding and completion of the ESIA process, the company is targeting production from BAF1 in the second quarter of 2024.

The global expansion strategy involves the staged construction of BAFs in key global jurisdictions to satisfy original-equipment manufacturers’ demand in Asia, North America, Europe and the UK.  Each BAF will be capable of producing commercial volumes of coated, spherical and purified graphite (CSPG) for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicle (EV) applications. 

The BAF design is based on a proprietary and well-established processing technology currently supplying CSPG to major EV automotive companies.

Meanwhile, the company announced the appointment of Dr Markus Reichardt as VP of sustainability.

Reichardt brings extensive environmental, social and governance (ESG) expertise to NextSource, with more than 25 years of practical, advisory and strategic experience integrating ESG into all stages of projects and investment cycles across the natural resource, agricultural and renewables sectors. Reichardt was formerly the corporate environmental manager of AngloGold Ashanti and holds a PhD in restoration ecology.

Reichardt will be responsible for NextSource’s group safety, health, environment, social, climate change and quality performance policies and initiatives.