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Graphite facts

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Graphite is a non-metallic mineral that has properties similar to metals, such as a good ability to conduct heat and electricity. Graphite occurs naturally or can be produced synthetically. Purified natural graphite has higher crystalline structure and offers better electrical and thermal conductivity than synthetic material.

Key facts

  • In 2020, global graphite mine production was about 954,000 tonnes, a 14% decrease from 2019.
  • China is the largest global producer with 650,000 tonnes of production in 2020.
  • Canada ranks as the 10th global producer with 12,000 tonnes of production in 2020.
  • Canada imported $20.6 million worth of natural and synthetic graphite, while exports were valued at $31.6 million.

Learn more about graphite

Uses

Among the many applications, natural and synthetic graphite are used for electrodes, refractories, batteries and lubricants and by foundries. Coated spherical graphite is used to manufacture the anode in lithium-ion batteries. High-grade graphite is also used in fuel cells, semiconductors, LEDs and nuclear reactors.

Graphite, global uses, 2020

Graphite, global uses, 2020
Text version

This circular chart shows the major global uses of natural (38%) and synthetic (62%) graphite. Synthetic graphite is used for electrodes (32%), recarburizing (10%), graphite shapes (4%), lubricants (4%) and other (12%). Natural graphite is used for refractories (16%), batteries (8%), foundries (5%) and other uses (9%).

Production

The Lac des Iles mine is the only mine in Canada that is producing graphite. However, many other companies are working on graphite projects.

Canada’s graphite shipments reached 11,937 tonnes in 2020, up slightly from 11,045 tonnes in 2020.

Canadian mine production of graphite, 2017–2020 (p)

Canadian mine production of graphite, 2017–2020 (p)
Text version

This bar graph shows Canada's annual mine production of graphite from 2017 to 2020. The production of graphite mines in Canada was 14,000 tonnes in 2017. Production declined to 11,000 tonnes in 2018 and increased gradually to about 12,000 tonnes in 2020.

International context

Global production and demand for graphite are anticipated to increase in the coming years, largely because of the use of graphite in the batteries of electric vehicles. In 2020, global consumption of graphite reached 2.7 million tonnes. Synthetic graphite accounted for about two-thirds of the graphite consumption, which was largely concentrated in Asia.

Global consumption of graphite by type and region, 2020

Global consumption of graphite by type and region, 2020
Text version

These pie charts display the share of graphite consumption by type and region in 2020. Asia accounted for 66% of the 1.0 million tonnes of natural flake graphite consumed globally, Europe 11%, South America 9%, North America 8%, and others 6%. Asia accounted for 59% of the 1.7 million tonnes of synthetic graphite consumed globally, Europe 13%, North America 11%, South America 10%, and others 7%.

Global mine production of graphite was 954,000 tonnes in 2020, down 14% compared to the previous year. China is the leading global producer, accounting for 68% of production in 2020.

World mine production of graphite, by country, 2020
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 650.0 68.1%
2 Brazil 95.0 9.9%
3 Madagascar 47.0 4.9%
4 India 34.0 3.6%
5 Russia 24.0 2.5%
6 Mozambique 20.0 2.1%
7 Ukraine 19.0 2.0%
8 Norway 15.0 1.6%
9 Pakistan 13.0 1.4%
10 Canada 12.0 1.2%
11 Other countries 25.6 2.7%
Total   954.6 100.0%

World mine production of graphite, 2011–2020 (p)

World mine production of graphite, 2011–2020 (p)
Text version

This bar graph shows global annual mine production of graphite from 2011 to 2020. The production of graphite mines in Canada was stable in 2011 and 2012 at 25,000 tonnes. It then dropped to 20,000 tonnes in 2013, followed by another stable period from 2014 to 2016 at 30,000 tonnes. Production increased to 40,000 tonnes in 2017 and 2018, but declined to about 10,000 tonnes in 2019 and 2020.

World reserves with the largest volume of graphite

In 2020, global reserves of graphite were estimated to be 323.8 million tonnes. Turkey has the largest reserves of graphite, followed by China and Brazil. Together these three countries accounted for 72% of the estimated world graphite reserves.

World reserves of graphite, by country, 2020
Ranking Country Million tonnes Percentage of total
1 Turkey 90.0 27.8%
2 China 73.0 22.5%
3 Brazil 70.0 21.6%
4 Madagascar 26.0 8.0%
5 Mozambique 25.0 7.7%
6 Tanzania 17.0 5.3%
7 India 8.0 2.5%
8 Uzbekistan 7.6 2.3%
9 Mexico 3.1 1.0%
10 North Korea 2.0 0.6%
11 Other countries 2.1 0.6%
Total   323.8 100.0%

Trade

In 2020, the value of Canada’s exports of graphite was $31.6 million, a 9% decrease compared to the previous year. Imports also decreased in 2020, by 33% to $20.9 million.

Natural graphite accounted for 46.7% ($14.8 million) of the value of Canada’s exports of graphite and 13.5% ($2.8 million) of Canada’s imports of graphite in 2020. Synthetic graphite accounted for 53.3% ($ 16.9 million) of Canada’s exports of graphite and 86.5% ($18.0 million) of Canada’s imports of graphite in 2020.

In 2020, the United States was the primary destination for Canada’s exports of natural and synthetic graphite, accounting for 85% and 42% of the total exports, respectively.

Prices

The market price for graphite is not readily available because natural and synthetic graphite transactions are based mostly on direct negotiations between the buyer and seller.

Natural graphite prices tend to be determined based on a range of factors such as graphite content, flake size and impurity level.

As the largest global producer, China naturally influences international prices, which are mainly provided by large, high-volume buyers and tend to be conservative. Most small buyers tend to pay higher prices.

Recycling

Although currently small, the market for recycled refractory graphite material is expanding, with material being recycled into products such as brake lining and thermal insulation.

Although graphite is not commonly recovered from the recycling of lithium-ion batteries, a Quebec-based company is developing a hydrometallurgical process that would successfully recover most of the battery’s raw materials, including the graphite.

Notes and sources

(p) preliminary

Totals may be different because of rounding.

Uses

  • Graphite, global uses, 2020
    • Roskill

Production

  • Canadian mine production of graphite, 2017–2020 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
    • Data prior to 2017 are suppressed by the source.

International context

  • Global graphite consumption by region, 2020 (p)
    • Roskill
  • World mine production of graphite, by country, 2020 (p)
    • United State Geological Survey
  • World mine production of graphite, 2011–2020 (p)
    • United State Geological Survey
  • World reserves of graphite, by country, 2020 (p)
    • United State Geological Survey

Trade

  • Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada
    • Trade data includes the following graphite products: natural graphite, in powder or in flakes (HS code 25.0410), natural graphite, other (HS code 25.0490), artificial graphite. (HS code 38.0110)

Prices

  • Argus Media

Recycling

  • United States Geological Survey
  • Lithion Recycling
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