Much potential in value-added graphite exports | Sunday Observer
LOLC Group teams up with SLINTEC to produce graphene

Much potential in value-added graphite exports

Sri Lanka which has immense potential to be a major exporter of graphene, will be backed by expansion in refining capacity at the Ceylon Graphene Technologies (CGT) plant to be commissioned in May, said LOLC Chief Operating Officer Kithsiri Gunawardena.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a media briefing last week to announce the partnership between CGT, a joint venture between the LOLC Group and the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC) to produce graphene.

He said that value addition of graphite for export has been low in Sri Lanka despite it being the only country to produce vein graphite.

Graphite mining in Sri Lanka has been underway since the mid 1800s, with the discovery of vein graphite (plumbago). Sri Lanka is the only country to mine ultra pure highly crystalline vein graphite with over 98 percent of carbon purity for over a century.

Currently producing a negligible 300 tons of graphite monthly, Sri Lankan graphite is mainly sourced from three mines which include Bogala, Kahatagaha and Ragedara.

“We will increase our current annual capacity of grahene oxide from around six tons and 3.2 tons of reduced grahene oxide with the commissioning of the new plant at Homagama,” Gunawardena said.

Together with SLINTC, CGT has developed a sustainable graphite refining process which could produce graphene from locally mined graphite at a low price. The price of Sri Lankan vein graphite averaged around US$ 2,300 per metric ton.

 Graphene is a single sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal honeycomb pattern.

It is the world’s thinnest material and is popular for its fascinating properties. It is stronger than diamond and finest steel.

The first Graphene and Advanced material company in Sri Lanka, Ceylon Graphene Technologies (Pvt) Ltd was set up in June 2018.

It is a joint venture of the LOLC Group and Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC) that aims to place Sri Lanka in the global market for graphene and associated products. In taking this futuristic venture forward, LOLC teamed up with SLINTEC as the seventh private sector partner to enhance and propel LOLC’s competitive position on the proprietary technology in all industrial sectors.

Other private sector partners preceding LOLC include Brandix, Dialog, Hayleys, Loadstar, Lankem, and MAS Holdings.

The private sector expertise and industrial experience brought in through LOLC are honed by the technological expertise of SLINTEC to create a unique partnership that has the potential to reach unforeseen heights in the global market.

In 1971, the government of Sirima Bandaranaike nationalised the graphite mining industry, taking over all the large mines and set up the Graphite Corporation in 1972 to manage the mining operations at Bogala, Kahatagaha and Kolongaha.

It had a yearly export of 10,000 metric tons, before mismanagement and corruption forced all the mines to close down.