China is the world’s main producer and exporter of the mineral. It also refines more than 90% of the world’s graphite into the anode material used in electric vehicle batteries. China’s top buyers of graphite include the US, South Korea, Japan, Poland and India, Chinese Customs data shows.
Graphite can be found naturally or produced synthetically. Natural graphite is mined graphite, which is then processed into an end-use product that can be used in the battery industry. Natural graphite is mainly mined in China and Mozambique. Synthetic graphite is produced using a carbon precursor product, usually petroleum coke, needle coke or coal tar pitch, and converted to graphite through a process called graphitization.
A natural graphite anode generally benefits from lower costs and lower energy consumption than a synthetic anode. But synthetic graphite is popular thanks to its higher purity, and most lithium-ion batteries rely on it today.
Other countries that mine graphite are Brazil, Mozambique, Russia, Madagascar, Ukraine, Norway, North Korea, Canada and India.
In 2022, China took first place by extracting 850,000 tons of the mineral, representing 65% of the world total. Brazil came in a distant second with 87,000 tons, while other countries extracted significantly less, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
Africa has been a recent focus for graphite exploration, with projects in development in Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia and Tanzania.
Ukraine and Russia were among the top 10 graphite producers before the conflict, according to the USGS. In February last year, Ukraine stopped graphite production. Operations resumed in August, however future production is uncertain as the conflict continues. Additionally, many countries have suspended trade relations with Russia, eliminating supplies of Russian graphite from much of the world market.