Bavarian graphite mine reopens on higher prices

A graphite mine in Bavaria reopened on Thursday as rising prices of raw material imports from China made German mining profitable once again. Meanwhile, the search is on to find sources of expensive raw materials closer to home.

Bavarian graphite mine reopens on higher prices
Photo: DPA

Kropfmühl graphite mine ceased digging seven years ago as it became increasingly difficult to compete with cheap imports from China. The costs were too high and returns too low as China began selling graphite at reduced prices, putting pressure on mining companies in the West who had higher operating costs.

But now China has introduced heavy export duties on raw materials, raising world prices of graphite, copper and rare earth metals.

Happily, the management of the Bavarian graphite mine had the foresight to see that the day might come when domestic graphite mining would profitable once again, thus not putting the mine into final shutdown and keeping it ticking over instead.

“That was a good decision,” said Martin Ebeling, head of Graphit Kropfmühl AG (GK), who celebrated the reopening of the traditional graphite mine on Thursday.

Graphite is used not only in tennis rackets and pencils, but is also an important component in batteries and electric cars – both of which will play an important part in Germany’s ambitious renewable energy revolution.

“Graphite is classed as one of the most strategically important raw materials,” said Martin Ebeling, head of Graphit Kropfmühl AG (GK). The government’s plan to jump-start the growth of the electric car industry in Germany are unimaginable without a secure supply of graphite.

According to industry estimates, the production of two million electric cars a year will require 100,000 tonnes of graphite, or a quarter of the total global production. Three quarters of Germany’s graphite is currently sourced in China.

Still, miners union IG BCE does not expect recent raw material price developments to lead to a mining renaissance in Germany – it would cost too much to reopen the mines shut down in the 1960s.

Yet the German government is financing the search for new mining sites in the hope of finding sources of coveted materials such as rare earth metals on German soil.

“If we find unused resources outside our front door in our own soil, we’ll be less dependent on imports,” said Bavarian Minister for Economic Affairs Martin Zeil.

DPA/The Local/jlb

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Bar closures and no Christmas markets: How Bavaria is tightening Covid rules

Bavaria will order the closure of all bars and clubs as part of sweeping new restrictions to try and control the Covid spread and ease overrun hospitals. Here's a look at what's planned.

Closed Christmas market stalls in Munich.
Closed Christmas market stalls in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

On Friday Bavarian state leader Markus Söder announced more tough restrictions to deal with spiralling Covid infections and packed intensive care units.

“The corona drama continues,” said Söder after the cabinet meeting, adding that 90 percent of Covid patients in state hospitals are unvaccinated. “Being unvaccinated is a real risk.”

Bavaria has a vaccination rate of 65.9 percent – lower than the nationwide rate of almost 68 percent.

READ ALSO: Bavaria cancels all Christmas markets in Covid surge

Söder said the state’s Covid package was about “blocking, braking and boosting”, adding that vaccination centres will be ramped up. 

“We must act,” he said. “Bavaria is exhausting almost all legal means until December 15th.”

Earlier this week, Bavaria introduced a state-wide 2G rule, meaning only vaccinated people (geimpft) and people who’ve recovered from Covid (genesen) can enter many public spaces. People who are eligible to get vaccinated but choose not to get it are excluded. 

Here’s an overview of the planned restrictions set to come in on Wednesday, as reported by local broadcaster BR24. 

Bars, clubs and restaurant curfew

From Wednesday, and for three weeks, all nightlife like clubs, discos, bars, pubs and brothels in Bavaria are set to close their doors. Restaurants will have to shut at 10pm. So planned Christmas nights out will likely need to be cancelled or postponed. 

Christmas markets

There will be no Christmas or Christkindl markets in Bavaria this year. In the past days, several cities had announced that they would not be holding these events this year due to the Covid situation. 

Contact restrictions on the unvaccinated

Söder announced new restrictions on the number of people those who are not inoculated can socialise with. A maximum of five unvaccinated people will be allowed to meet, from two different households. Children under 12 will not be included in the total, as well as vaccinated or people who’ve recovered from Covid.

Cultural and sporting events

All cultural and sporting events can only take place with significantly reduced spectators. At theatres, opera performances, sporting events, in leisure centres and at trade fairs, there will be a 25-percent capacity limit. The 2G plus rule also applies. This means that only vaccinated and recovered people are allowed to enter (not the unvaccinated) – and only with a negative rapid test. Masks are compulsory everywhere.

Universities, driving schools, close-body services: 2G plus

All universities, driving schools, adult education centres and music schools will only be open to those who have been vaccinated and have recovered – making it 2G. This rule also applies to body-related services, like hairdressers and beauty salons. Only medical, therapeutic and nursing services are exempt from the 2G rule. So unvaccinated people can still go to the doctor or receive a medical procedure. 

KEY POINTS: Germany finalises new Covid restrictions for winter


Shops remain exempt from 2G rules, meaning unvaccinated people can visit them. However, there is to be limits on capacity. This means that fewer customers are allowed into a shop at the same time.

Special rules for hotspots

Currently, the incidence in eight Bavarian districts is above 1,000 infections per 100,000 people in seven days. Here and in all other regions where the incidence goes above this number, public life is to be shut down as far as possible.

This means that restaurants, hotels and all sports and cultural venues will have to close. Hairdressers and other body-related service providers will also not be allowed to open for three weeks, and events will also have to be cancelled. Universities will only be allowed to offer digital teaching. Shops will remain open, but there must be 20 square metres of space per customer. This means that only half as many customers as in other regions are allowed in a shop.

If the incidence falls below 1,000 for at least five days, the rules are lifted.

Schools and daycare

Throughout Bavaria, schools and daycare centres are to remain open. However, there will be regular Covid testing. Children and young people have to continue to wear a face mask during lessons, including school sports, unless they are exercising outside. 

Bavaria is expected to approve the measures on Tuesday and they will be in force until at least December 15th. We’ll keep you updated if there are any changes.