MRC's 90%-owned Skaland Graphite is a member of the DINAMINE (Digital and Innovative Mine of the Future) consortium which will share in €12.3 million (A$19 million) to develop and apply technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, automation, and integrated mine-to-port management systems to improve efficiencies and sustainability of smaller European mines.
Skaland in Norway is one of two mines in the 11-strong group where the technologies will be implemented, scaled up, and tested.
MRC interim CEO Adam Bick said installing new sensors, equipment and control systems would allow the use of algorithms developed by the consortium to help optimise plant production rates, while semi-automated drilling and remote geotechnical monitoring at the Traelen deposit should reduce mining costs and improve mine safety.
The funding would also allow evaluation of alternative tailings options to reduce Skaland's environmental footprint.
"The project represents a step-change in process management at Skaland from the current, essentially manual operations," Bick said, positioning it as "the premium European supplier of natural graphite".
Production should not only improve from current levels around 10,000 tonne per annum, but would support future certification requirements for graphite concentrate into the battery supply chain.
Late last year MRC advised its 10% Skaland partner, BSG Mining, had issued a default notice for breaches of the original February 2020 purchase agreement. Discussions continue between the pair to rectify any alleged issues.
After a protracted right issue process that seeking up A$16 million in October, which ended up involving the Takeovers Panel and a declaration of unacceptable circumstances due to major shareholder AU Mining, the company raised $9.8 million at 7.5c in late December.
MRC has reported debts of $13 million, and its cash position at the start of October was $2.7 million.
The rights issue was designed to help fund its five year strategy, which involves a construction of a pilot scale battery anode plant in Canada, and commercial plants at Skaland and the undeveloped Munglinup deposit in Western Australia.
The company also has mineral sands mining operations in South Africa.
MRC's shares have traded in the range of 6-21c over the past year, and the stock was last traded at 6.9c, valuing it at $48 million.