Walkabout Resources : Greatness in Tanzanian Graphite

Joshua MannLucy Pilgrim
Joshua Mann - Regional Director Lucy Pilgrim - Senior Editor
Highlights
  • Poised at the forefront of the sector, Walkabout Resources (Walkabout) is an industry-leading, high-grade graphite mining organisation.
  • Walkabout is currently focused on its flagship project, the Lindi Jumbo Graphite mine, which will supply high-quality flake graphite to international markets.
  • Committed to its motto of ‘Tanzania First, Local First’, Walkabout places extreme importance on nearby communities, whose contributions have been vital to the project’s success.
  • “We strive to expand our downstream and upstream activities, and become the supplier of choice for responsibly and sustainably sourced natural flake graphite,” says Andrew Cunningham, Managing Director, Walkabout Resources.

We speak to Andrew Cunningham, Managing Director of Walkabout Resources, about the tremendous graphite mining capabilities of its flagship Lindi Jumbo project, and how the company consistently endeavours to put the local community first.

GREATNESS IN TANZANIAN GRAPHITE

The Tanzanian mining industry is currently experiencing an upward trajectory, after a decade-long hiatus saw no major mines opening in the country and little spending in the sector.  

However, following a revitalisation of the industry, there has been a renewed interest in Tanzanian mining and exploration activities as the government works hard to actively promote the sector far and wide.  

The graphite mining landscape, in particular, has garnered a global reputation as an attractive investment choice in Tanzania.   

Poised at the forefront of the sector, Walkabout Resources (Walkabout) is an industry-leading, high-grade graphite mining organisation. 

“The company started out as a typical Australian junior mining and exploration business that mainly focused on sought-after commodities in Africa,” introduces Andrew Cunningham, Managing Director.  

Walkabout has grown considerably in the past year, to the point where it will soon have approximately 100 employees alongside a further 100 contractors involved in its Australian and African operations.  

With a vast pool of knowledge and experience to draw from, Cunningham has a deep passion for mining that has informed his attitude towards the company.  

“As a geologist, I have worked in virtually every facet of the industry, from leading global project generation teams through all stages of exploration to mine geology and restarting historical assets,” he details.

LINDI JUMBO PROJECT

Walkabout is currently focused on commencing the production of its flagship project, the Lindi Jumbo Graphite (Lindi Jumbo) mine, which will supply high-quality flake graphite to international markets.  

Crucially, the mine is due for first production at the end of Q2 2024 at a time when significant graphite shortfalls are predicted.  

Indeed, Benchmark Minerals Intelligence (BMI) estimates that 97 graphite mines, each producing 50,000 tonnes (t) of flake concentrate, need to be built and enter production in the next decade.  

Lindi Jumbo will be a key contributor to alleviate these pressures, as the mine will produce 40,000t of flake concentrate at grades of more than 95 percent total graphite carbon (TGC), with a comprehensive life-of-mine (LOM) expectancy of 24 years.  

Furthermore, Lindi Jumbo has the highest reserve grade of any undeveloped graphite project in Africa, as it is not resource bound and has ample growth opportunities.  

“No graphite deposit is the same, but Lindi Jumbo is very different to typical graphite deposits in that the vast majority of graphite flakes in-situ are above 300 microns, making them jumbo flakes,” Cunningham explains. 

“Additionally, the flakes are easily liberated – a function of their unique geology – and are upgraded through a straightforward mechanical metallurgical process, which produces a high-quality, sought-after flake concentrate.” 

Due to these qualities, the Lindi Jumbo mine is in the rare position whereby it can service practically every sector of the graphite industry, from the energy storage and electric vehicle (EV) market to the more specialised expandable graphite sectors, such as foils and graphene.  

The staged commissioning of the project’s processing plant has already begun, with the majority being cold commissioned so that all motors and pumps can be tested, whilst hot commissioning has also been conducted where possible.  

The total capital expenditure for the project was approximately USD$35 million, with the remainder of the funds being generated through equity raising on the Australian Security Exchange (ASX).

ONE OF A KIND

As an indicator of Lindi Jumbo’s innovative characteristics, the project is the first graphite operation outside of China to attract debt funding in 2023. Walkabout was fortunate enough to secure the support in partnership with Gemcorp Capital, a London-based financial institution.  

The USD$20 million debt funding allowed the company to complete the project build and construction on time by March 2024. 

Further unique factors of the mine can be found in its attention to environmental practices, as the project will have no waste dumps, whilst all excess waste rock will be used to build a tailings storage facility (TSF), and, in turn, increase the effectiveness of the mine.  

Moreover, due to the high-grade ore body being produced, Lindi Jumbo and its associated infrastructure emits negligible pollution. This, together with the fact that it is connected to the national power grid, which is predominantly generated through hydro and natural gas-fired power stations, means that the project’s environmental footprint is relatively small.  

Therefore, Walkabout is going a long way to ensure that Lindi Jumbo’s end product of natural flake graphite can be considered responsibly sourced.  

Due to the project’s trailblazing production and environmental attributes, Cunningham is proud to have witnessed the mine come to fruition.  

“Being involved in Lindi Jumbo from its conception back in 2015, discovering what is certainly a one-of-a-kind deposit and taking it through to production, has been a highlight of my career,” Cunningham proudly divulges.  

Therefore, at a time where graphite has been declared a critical mineral in the world due to its importance in the green revolution and use in so many aspects of modern society, the Lindi Jumbo project has become an industry-leading mine development.  

“We strive to expand our downstream and upstream activities, and become the supplier of choice for responsibly and sustainably sourced natural flake graphite”

Andrew Cunningham, Managing Director, Walkabout Resources

TANZANIA FIRST

Committed to its motto of ‘Tanzania First, Local First’, Walkabout places extreme importance on nearby communities, whose contributions and buy-ins have been vital to the project’s success.  

From Lindi Jumbo’s inception, it became clear to Cunningham that local communities were extremely eager to see the mine become a success and be part of the journey.  

As such, building the mine has given the company the opportunity to do the right thing from the outset and take into consideration what is important to nearby villages. 

Consequently, Walkabout has held regular meetings with locals to understand their needs, which have subsequently been documented and prioritised.  

For example, the construction of the mine has led to significant changes in the region, as the government has fast-tracked the development of infrastructure in the form of new roads, hospitals, and schools, as well as the expansion of a power supply into local communities.  

“Five years ago, none of this would have been envisaged,” Cunningham highlights.  

Meanwhile, the company has also been holding itself financially accountable throughout the entirety of the project.  

“Even though our contributions to date have been fairly modest, we have been very transparent throughout the process, and the local village leaders have been understanding of the fact that all our focus has been on getting the necessary funding together,” he adds.  

On top of this, Walkabout has been very frugal with its expenditure to ensure that it stays within budget for production, so that the company is able to generate sufficient funds that can be fed back into the community.  

LOCALISED SUPPLIERS

As part of its prioritisation of the surrounding region, Walkabout has been working with a local logistics provider for a number of years, who was responsible for the clearance of tough parts and the transport of all the equipment from the processing plant to the mine site.  

“The same company will now be responsible for the export of graphite concentrate out of Tanzania, and has developed state-of-the-art systems to ensure the integrity of this process and security of each bag of concentrate as it travels from the mine to the final destination, wherever it is in the world,” expands Cunningham.  

Additionally, the vast majority of the work conducted for the Lindi Jumbo project, such as exploration, drilling, earthworks, construction, and commissioning, was completed by local contractors and workers from nearby villages.  

What’s more, many of these employees have subsequently developed the requisite skills to ensure their ongoing employment at the company. 

Following the acquisition of a comprehensive, local workforce, Walkabout’s number one priority going forward is to get the mine up and running and to achieve nameplate capacity as soon as possible.  

“Once we have reached this goal, we strive to expand our downstream and upstream activities, and become the supplier of choice for responsibly and sustainably sourced natural flake graphite,” closes Cunningham.

WALKABOUT RESOURCES PARTNER

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Joshua Mann is a Project Manager for Outlook Publishing. Joshua is responsible for showcasing corporate stories in our digital B2B magazines and Digital Platforms, and sourcing collaborations with Business Leaders, Brands, and C-suite Executives to feature in future editions. Joshua is actively seeking opportunities to collaborate. Reach out to Joshua to discover how you and your business could be our next cover story.