Sri Lankan Mining: Graphite

Figure 1.--Graphite mining began in Sri Lanka during the ealy-19th century. Here we see a Sri Lankan graphite mine in the very early-20th century. The process would not be mechanized for several more decades. You can see the miners on the ladder, many of whom seem to be children.

Sri Lanka has a notable graphite resource. Sri Lanka is underlain by Proterozoic high grade metamorphic rocks with Phanerozoic sediments in the coastal region. This is where the graphite is found. Graphite forms as veins and disseminations in metamorphic rocks as the result of the metamorphism of organic material included in limestone deposits. It is one of the country's most important mineral resources. It is the only place on earth that a vein of (lump) graphite has been found in commercial qanttities. Graphite is the most stable form of carbon under standard conditions. Mining began during the British colonial era (early 19th century). Sri Lanka miming because of the depth and physical characteristics of the deposits, mining is underground. Some of the older mines in Sri Lanka reached depths exceeding 450 meters. Until recently Sri Lankan mining was primitive and ore extraction was slow and unmanageable. The mines were finally mechanized after World War II. Graphite was a dry lubricant and important in industry. It was used to make brake linings, lubricants, and molds in foundries. During World War I and II some 35,000 metric tons of natural graphite was exported annually. It was an imprtant part of the economy. It is also used in pencils. Graphite was at first called plumbago becaue it was thought to be a form of lead. That is why the graphite in a pencil is referred to as lead. Graphite has important electrial consuctivity characteristics and thus ne uses have been found for graphite in our modern computer age and the demand for graphite is rising. Sri Lanka is not a major producer of graphite, but is the only source of the lump and chippy dust variety.


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Created: 11:07 PM 6/28/2019
Last updated: 11:07 PM 6/28/2019