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Syrah outlines Vidalia operation
from The Concordia Sentinel
July 5, 2018 -

Syrah Resources Chief Operating Officer Paul Jahn says the company hopes to be in operation in Vidalia by the end of this calendar year.

Jahn said the company’s purified spherical graphite operation planned in Vidalia would be the “only commercial scale facility for making that material outside of China. We’re not only the only one in the U.S., but will be only one in the world outside of China.”

He outlined the company’s plans for the Vidalia operation and discussed its significance in the emerging market for the production of materials for electric cars.

The company announced earlier that it plans to make a $25 million capital investment in Vidalia – at the old rubber plant building –to produce graphite anode materials for batteries in electric vehicles and other products.

According to Syrah, the commercial project will create 25 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $60,000, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project also will result in 30 new indirect jobs, for a total of 55 new jobs in Central Louisiana.

“We are excited to have Syrah Technologies join our business community,” Concordia Economic Development Executive Director Heather Malone said. “Syrah introduces our region to a new industry sector, which will allow us to diversify our economy and diversify our workforce skill sets.

She said the “quality jobs that Syrah will create at the plant will be the springboard we need to begin the reversal of trends in unemployment rates, poverty rates and population decline. We look forward to watching Syrah grow into a successful operation, and we look forward to seeing the positive changes in our community as a result of their success.”

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said at a recent meeting that the company would “produce a product that has the potential to take 300,000 gas burning cars off the road each year.

“Louisiana Economic Development (LED) has been pushing to get this industry here … Syrah is going to be a springboard for a great future.”

He said the town was “pro business and pro environment.”

Jahn said the company is “extremely excited about working with the local community. We are very impressed with the spirit of the community and the leadership. Vidalia was in competition with two other sites that we were considering in Louisiana and we think we made a very good choice and are looking forward to growing with the city.

He said Vidalia “has growth ambitions and we do too. We think this will be a good partnership. Right now we’re in process of working in due diligence activities with the property purchase. Hope to conclude those activities in the next four weeks.”

He said the company is buying the old rubber plant building and 25 acres.

Syrah has “already purchased a significant amount of equipment for our operation that is presently in storage in the Reserve, La., area. We will ultimately move the equipment to Vidalia and also will be purchasing additional equipment, all with a goal of commencing initial operations by the end of the calendar year.”

The pace of the company’s growth will depend “very much on how quickly the United States and overseas markets adopt the use of electric vehicles. We’re hopeful that as that market grows that we will essentially grow with it.”

Jahn said the market is expected to grow at an average rate of 25 percent per year over the course of the next 13 years.

“So we would need to grow our operation to support that growth rate,” he said.

The company will have a workforce, Jahn said, that will include four categories of employees, including operators, maintenance, laboratory and administrative personnel

“Operators will be involved in the milling of graphite, which is converting it from flake form to spherical form,” he said. “That’s a heavily mechanical operation. The operators would be focused on making sure that line of mill is working smoothly.

“There will be individuals involved the movement of raw material at the beginning of mill line and individuals involved in material handling on the back end of the line.

“The second stage of the operation -- where we do purification of graphite –- will be like people typically experienced in a chemical operation” as seen “up and down the Mississippi River. Essentially, these operators will monitor control systems and be involved in turning valves and things normally associated with a process chemical operation. But there would be material handling and classic laborer positions as well.

“In a broad sense, the operation side of staff would have individuals from entry level classic laborers up to people who would be skilled process control operators. There will be control panel displaying how various process units are operating. This will be a heavily automated operation.”

Maintenance personnel will ensure “the mechanical equipment stays in good working conditions. Also we would expect to have electrical and instrument technical and maintenance folks making sure the nervous system of all machinery is maintained in good operation condition.”

Workers in the analytical lab on site will be testing incoming raw materials and testing outgoing product to insure that it is meeting stated specifications.

Administrative personnel will be involved in scheduling, processing, planning and other tasks.

Syrah Resources mines and produces natural flake graphite in Mozambique and plans to ship the material to Louisiana for further processing. At the Concordia Parish facility, Syrah would mill and refine the material into high-purity spherical graphite for use in battery anodes, with a focus on customers in the automotive industry.

Established in 2010, Syrah Resources is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. It operates a mine in Mozambique and a sales and marketing office in Dubai. It’s U.S. subsidiary – Syrah Technologies – was established last year.

In a recent presentation to the Ferriday Rotary Club, Jahn said the company employs 650-plus worldwide and has a market capitalization of approximately $800 million.

According to Syrah, the key driver of battery market growth “is the rapid adoption of electric vehicles.” Syrah says that electric car sales are expected to reach 20 million by 2030.

Graphite is a natural carbon mineral that is mined and concentrated. Spherical graphic “is a very fine natural graphite powder which has been machined into the referred shape, size and concentrate for application in lithium-ion batteries.”


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