Created by: UCMP on November, 2022

Blencowe’s Orom Graphite Project places Uganda On A Springboard To An Early Decarbonization Journey

Blencowe Resources, a United Kingdom-based mineral exploration, and development company has placed Uganda on a springboard to decarbonization journey earlier than expected as it plans to start graphite production in two years. 

Blencowe Resources is the operator of Orom Cross Graphite in Kitgum District, Northern Uganda. Graphite is one of the minerals required in the energy transition journey- it is used to make carbon electrodes, brushes, and plates needed in dry cell batteries and the electrical industry. 

Natural graphite can also be also processed into synthetic graphite, used in lithium-ion batteries. Other graphite uses include the manufacture of writing materials, nuclear reactors, lubricants, refractors, and graphite sheets.  

Even though the world is talking about decarbonization through an energy transition- from fossil fuel- to green energy, negligible investments have been skewed toward the exploration and extraction of the minerals that drive the green energy transition. The world is attempting to combat climate change by reducing the amount of  carbon dioxide in the atmosphere., largely driven fossil fuel usage. 

In the latest, Blencowe Resources did an exploration that has increased the volumes of graphite resources to 2.3 billion tons from only 1% of their operation area. Blencowe has a 21-year-long mining license covering a 19 km long and 1.5 km wide area. While the JORC resource is 24.5 metric tons at 6% TCG. 

Mr. Nabil Alam, Country Director of Blencowe Resources described the resources during the Mineral Wealth Conference 2022 in Kampala as a very substantial graphic resource. The company expects to start the construction of a processing plant next year. 
“We are looking at starting production in 2025. But given the rate at which developments are happing, it could bring production timelines even earlier,”  said Nabil. 
The green processing
Nabil said that the company is going to use solar energy that will power the camp and electricity for processing graphite. He explained that the excess power produced will be distributed to the local communities. In regard to the transportation of the products, he said that the company is looking at the most efficient carbon-neutral footprint to move the products to the port of Mombasa. 

“These are elements that put us ahead of other countries. When buyers come they want to know that it is produced in a sustainable manner,” he said. 

Besides that, greenery will be replenished because it is part of the agreement with the communities that any area in which they have done mining will be restored up to the natural state. 

These operations will be audited and certified to international standards. The volumes of graphite established is likely to see the company live within the Orom community for close to 100 years, a strong reason that calls for obtaining a social license to operate. 

National Content   

Blencowe is working on the National Content starting with local-local, where the first priority for opportunities in the company is offered to local host community members. It has sponsored several students to study relevant skills that will be employed in the company. 

The graphite project is the first in Uganda and therefore there are no skills, meaning that it will take close to 10 years to develop. “We hope the majority of our staff will be from within the country and communities,” said Nabil.

Graphite products demand  

The Orom Cross Graphite project will involve selling 65% of end products as small /medium flake concentrate and 35%  as Jumbo/ large concentrates.  

Uganda graphite expects to tap into the Electric Vehicles (EV) market expansion as the transport sector goes green. In 2021, there were 15 million EV in the world. In 2030, the forecast is that 282 mega factories will be operating or under construction. “That is the market we want to tap into,” said Nabil.

The energy transformation using green minerals is already creating linkages between mining companies and car manufacturers. Orom will be producing Flake Graphite with a long-term supply forecast for 2040.” It is expected that the market will remain in structural deficits requiring ongoing investments in new capacities. So there is going to be a huge amount of opportunities,” he said. 

The International Energy Agency in its 2022 Energy Outlook report concurs. "Africa's vast resources of minerals are critical for multiple clean energy technologies , and are set to create new export markets.

According to the IEA, Africa accounts  for 40% of global reserves of cobalt, Manganese, platinum, key minerals for batteries  and hydrogen technologies. 

Mr. Nabil said that the successful operation of the graphite mine will trigger further in-country investment into various graphite-related industries. This, however, he said will depend on a strong and stable government, favourable tax and regulatory regimes, and supportive infrastructures like transport systems and costs.

Graphite has a unique form. Every mine produces a slightly different kind /quality of graphite so the buyer has to tailor his products depending on the composition of the graphite. It means that a buyer would want assurance that the supplies will be of the same quality over a long time. 

Meanwhile, Jangada Mines PLC, a Brazilian London stock exchange-listed mining company bought shares worth £ 750,000 from Blencowe Resources. The new capital injection is a significant boost to the Orom project- it will facilitate the transportation of 100 tons of graphite samples to China from the Orom -Cross Graphite Project area.