MRC's anode strategy will begin with a 10,000 tonne per annum plant, fed from graphite concentrate from its Skaland operations in Norway from mid-2022, before scaling up with the addition of two 20,000tpa modules to process graphite concentrate to process material from the planned Munglinup mine in WA.
The first module will use commercially available micronisation and spheronisation equipment, and is expected to be cost-competitive with hydrofluoric acid purification without its adverse environmental impacts.
Once the Skaland plant has been optimised, which should be complete next year, production will be increased from 10,000tpa to 16,000tpa in 2023 to feed the first module.
Executive chairman Mark Caruso said MRC wanted to take a staged approach, with technology de-risking decision points before the expansion.
Once derisked, two additional 20,000tpa modules will be developed to process the Munglinup ore, with that mine expected to be in operation by 2025.
The PFS is based around a modular approach to producing active anode material, purified spherical graphite and fines, for the European battery market.
Caruso said the anode PFS had outlined two "highly compelling economic study outcomes" based on different processes.
Using a caustic roast process, the project will cost US$237 million to develop with operating costs of $1610/t and delivers a post-tax net present value of $1 billion and an internal rate of return of 67%.
The $306 million carbochlorination process option delivers an NPV of $1.07 billion and an IRR of 58%, with operating costs of $1206/t.
Revenue for either option over the 17-year life is $4.7 billion, but the carbochlorination option generates higher earnings of $166 million per year, compared to $150 million for the caustic process.
Payback in either case is less than two years.
MRC expects to decision on its preferred process before the end of the year, with both its options coming with low CO2 emissions and avoiding the use of toxic hydrofluoric acid.
With internal combustion engines being phased out over the next decade, MRC can see an opportunity to develop itself as a vertically integrated supplier of clean battery materials.
MRC shares were up 1.4% in early trade to 36.5c, capitalising it at $166 million.