BlackEarth has signed a 50:50 joint venture (JV) agreement with India’s Metachem Manufacturing to develop an expandable graphite facility in India.

The new plant is expected to cater to the expandable graphite market, which is anticipated to grow.

Besides serving as a fire-retardant material, expandable graphite also has downstream use in the automotive, alternative energy, and electric vehicle (EV) sectors.

According to the agreement, BlackEarth will be responsible for the sourcing of quality graphite concentrate for the new plant.

The project is estimated to cost between $3m and $3.5m.

This plant will have an initial production capacity of between 2,000tpa and 2,500tpa.

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The facility can be expanded to produce 4,000tpa in future.

Moreover, BlackEarth will undertake the marketing and sales.

BlackEarth managing director Tom Revy said: “Now that we have signed this JV, we will shortly move to our preferred site in India and also conclude the recruitment of senior executives in India to manage the planning, construction and development phase.”

BlackEarth said that plant development plans have started while implementation is scheduled within three months. Production and sales are planned for mid-2022.

Grafitbergbau recently signed an offtake agreement for production at the new plant, thereby providing short-term production security.

Revy added: “Having an offtake partner prepared to buy all initial production has also given us the confidence to move forward with plant expansion plans so that we can increase production and sales over the medium term while minimising operational risk.”