Sri Lanka had over 3,000 operating graphite mines and was the world’s number one graphite producer and exporter but after World War 2 many were shut down and only two were operating. (Kahatagaha and bogala)
If 50 mines could be activated and operational, Sri Lanka can earner over USD 10 billion revenue with highest value additions (Graphene, Conductive Graphite, Graphite Nanotubes, super Lubricants etc.) making it the biggest export earner of the country, said owner of graphite mines in Ragedara, ,Chairman, Sakura Graphite Kurunegala, Keerthi Wickramaratne.
He is by profession an engineer with master’s degrees in Energy Engineering & Process Engineering. Wickramaratne said that he saw the potential of this mineral two decades ago and they were not taken seriously. “I even had to face very unpleasant incidents and severe pressure when I was the Chairman of the SLSEA and was forced to resign because I made a presentation on these subjects to the “Viyathmaga” presentation for Gotabaya Rajapaksa before the last Presidential election.
“I witnessed the potential of graphite and quartz and how Sri Lanka’s export sector could get a major boost from it and restarted the Ragedara Mine in Melsiripura, with a German partner which had been shut down for 3 decades. The Graphite from Ragedara was tested as the purest vein graphite in the world. (Analytical Reports of Superior Graphite and SGS). “We were granted an A grade mining licence In April, 2012.
“After mastering the industry, Sakura Graphite introduced value addition and started exporting ‘micronized powder’ and developed Best Graphene in the world market by 2016. We were able to produce the highest grade Conductive Graphite a few years ago. “
Wickramaratne who is also the Managing Director of Blue Bay Mineral International Private Limited, said that Sri Lanka earns less than US$ 50 million annually from the export of graphite and quartz which could be 100 times more in two years with appropriate value addition. “By reactivating 50 more mines this can go up to USD 10 billion mark in few years with appropriate value additions.”
Vein graphite found in Sri Lanka contains the highest “degree of crystalline” perfection of all conventional graphite material. He said that one of the unique features of reactivating Graphite mines is that huge investment is not needed for it.
“These deposits would remain and could be extracted for over 200 years and the government must seriously look at calling for an international JV for value addition to make nano material and EV and other kinds of batteries and energy storage devices.
This material is now dubbed as ‘Black Gold’. He said that these two raw materials are used towards the manufacturing of carbon pencils, brushes to computer chips, medical and war equipment, solar batteries to space gear and the list goes on and it also helps to reduce the global warming. Wickramaratne the former Chairman of the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA) said that in addition almost all the raw materials for making solar panels could also be manufactured and exported by activating these mines and extracting silica quartz. He also added general public and the professionals of the county must help to achieve this target for the sake of the future generations of the motherland.