Vanadium

Resource  figures are current as at 30 December 2016. Commentary is current as at 1st  November 2017.

Vanadium (V) is a soft, ductile, silver-grey metal that is used  primarily with iron to make metal alloys for high-strength steel production.  High-strength steel has a wide range of applications, including for gas and oil  pipelines, tool steel, jet engines, the manufacture of axles and crankshafts  for motor vehicles, as well as for reinforcing bars in building and  construction.

Vanadium is also used in the production of ceramics and electronics,  textile dyes, fertilisers, synthetic rubber, in welding, as well as in alloys  used in nuclear engineering and superconductors. Vanadium chemicals and  catalysts are used in the manufacture of sulfuric acid, the desulfurisation of  sour gas and oil, and in the development of fuel cells and low-charge-time  lightweight batteries.

Vanadium is not found in its metallic form in nature but occurs in more  than 60 minerals as a trace element in a range of rock types. It occurs most  commonly in titaniferous magnetite deposits and in uraniferous sandstone and  siltstone, as well as bauxites and phosphorites. It also occurs in fossil fuels  such as crude oil, coal and tar sands.

Nearly all of the world's vanadium  is derived from mined ore as either direct mineral concentrates, usually  vanadium- and titanium-rich magnetite, or as a by-product of steel-making  slags. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), China, South  Africa and Russia are the world's main producers of vanadium. Petroleum residue  is another source of vanadium. Japan and the United States are understood to be  the only countries to recover significant quantities of vanadium from this source.  It is also recovered from wastes such as fly ash from coal combustion and waste  solutions from the processing of uranium ores.

Vanadium is sold as vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) and  less commonly as vanadium trioxide (V2O3) for non-steel  applications and as the alloy ferrovanadium (FeV) for steel making. The most  common FeV alloy is FeV80, but FeV40, FeV50 and FeV60 are also sold. The  numeric part of the symbol refers to the amount of contained vanadium; for  example, FeV80 has approximately 80% contained vanadium.

Trade in vanadium products tends to be opaque with no central market  recording prices. Various trade sheets such as the Metal Pages, Ryan's Notes  and the London Metal Bulletin record proprietary information for subscribers.

The USGS reported world production of Vanadium for 2016 totaling 76,000  tonnes, led by China's production of 42,000 t, followed by Russia at 16,000 t  and with South Africa at 12,000 t. Vanadium prices2 were still  volatile in late 2015 right through to the first quarter of 2016 ranging from  $2.45 per pound to a brief high of $4.00 per pound in May 2016, dropping to  $3.20 per pound in June. Vanadium pentoxide price was $3.26 per pound in August  2016 which, according to USGS1, is still 80%  lower than at same period in 2008 of $15.40 per pound. The price has since been  slowly recovering, exceeding $4.001 per pound in  December 2016.  

Resources

Australia's Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) of vanadium increased by 17%  to 2111 kilotonnes (kt) in 2016 from 1802 kt in 2015.

Commodity

Units

Australia

World

JORC Reserves (a)
(% of Accessible EDR)

Demonstrated Resources

Inferred
Resources
(c)

Accessible
EDR
(d)

Mine
Production
2016 
(e)

Economic
Resources
2016 
(f)

Mine
production
2016 
(g)

Economic (EDR) (b)

Subeconomic

Para-marginal

Sub-marginal

Vanadium

Kt

1341 (64%)

2111

14 677

1376

17 002

2111

0

19 600

76

Table 1. Australian resources of vanadium and world figures as at December 2016

Figure 1. Vanadium-Iron-Titanium deposits with mineral resource estimate as at 31 December 2016. The geological regions defined here are based on Geoscience Australia┬┐s Geological Regions Boundaries dataset. Vanadium-iron-titanium deposit location information used in this map is derived from Geoscience Australia┬┐s national mineral resources OZMIN database.

Historically, Australia's EDR of vanadium has fluctuated because of the  economic impacts of volatile prices and the nature of the vanadium market,  which is supplied largely from secondary sources, particularly the reprocessing  of slags from iron smelting. These secondary sources are able to increase or  decrease output rapidly in response to price trends.

Accessible EDR

All of Australia's EDR of vanadium are accessible.

JORC Reserves

In 2016, Proved and Probable Reserves of vanadium, compliant with the  Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) Code remain the same in 2016 at 1341 kt.  Proved and Probable Reserves account for approximately 64% of accessible EDR.  The remaining 36% of EDR comprises Measured and Indicated Resources.

World Ranking

The USGS estimates that world economic resources of vanadium are about 19  million tonnes (Mt) but total world resources exceed 63 Mt. China  dominates the world vanadium resources with 46% followed by Russia at 25%, and South  Africa at 18%. Australia's EDR of 2.1 Mt represents approximately 11% of  the world's economic vanadium resources. However, because vanadium can be  recovered as a by-product or a co-product of steel slags, the estimated world  resources are not fully indicative of available supply. At current usage, there  are sufficient resources to meet the world's vanadium needs over the next  century.

The USGS estimates  that world production of vanadium from all sources in 2016 totalled 76 kt  compared to 79 kt in 2015, with China producing 42 kt, Russia 16 kt   and South Africa 12 kt

Exploration

Data on exploration expenditure for  vanadium is not available in published statistics. However, individual resource  companies have published expenditure information, including two companies  exploring adjacent blocks of the Lady Alma Igneous Complex near Gabanintha  approximately 40 km south of Meekatharra, WA. This Complex is part of the  Meeline Suite of layered mafic igneous rocks of which both the Windimurra and  Barrambie Igneous Complexes are associated.

Australian Vanadium Ltd (AVL), which  has reported the successful completion of its drilling programme during the  2015-2016 financial year at its Gabanintha project, completed 5,957 m of Reverse  Circulation (RC) drilling and 932 m of diamond drilling. Diamond drilling  results include significant intersections such as 30 metres at 0.99% V2O5  from 115 m in drill hole GDH913 including 14 m at 1.44% V2O5  from 131 m.

Immediately to the north of AVL, Technology  Metals Australia Ltd has announced the early results of its exploration  programme at the company's Gabanintha Vanadium project tenements. The drilling programme  consisted of 36 RC holes for 3,128 metres  of RC drilling.  High grade mineralisation of more than 1% vanadium has been intersected by  historical drilling at these tenement areas and in new drilling.

Production

In February 2014, a major fire occurred at Atlantic Ltd's Windimurra Vanadium project in Western Australia, which was Australia's only operating vanadium mine. Production at Windimurra has been suspended since the date of the fire.

Industry Developments

This section of the review highlights  company exploration and development related activities in their vanadium projects.  Global demand differs for each commodity and as the technology in battery  storage advances, so does the interest in vanadium as another option. However,  the present interest in vanadium is inadequate to encourage grass roots project  owners to embark on project development. Consequently there has been no activity  at some projects and the previous development review (2016) is re-stated below.  All reported reserves and resources are compliant with the JORC Code unless  otherwise stated.

Neometals Ltd (Neometals) has successfully completed its Neomet  technology pilot study, having evaluated some process changes that will deliver  better economic outlooks in regards to the project's final product  specification. The Barrambie project  has JORC Probable Reserves of approximately 10.762 Mt at 25.18% TiO2,  0.6% V2O5 and 42.5% Fe2O3. The Barrambie project location is  approximately 65 km north-northwest of Sandstone in WA, and is hosted by  the Meeline Suite of layered mafic units.

A new Mineral Resource estimate for the Gabanintha Vanadium project was reported by Australian Vanadium  Limited (AVL) in November 2015. As at the announcement date, the project's  total JORC Measured (7.0 Mt at 1.09% V2O5, 43% Fe  and 12% TiO2), Indicated (17.8 Mt at 0.68% V2O5,  28% Fe and 8% TiO2) and Inferred (66.7 Mt at 0.83% V2O5,  37% Fe and 10% TiO2) Resources totalled approximately 91.4 Mt  at an average grade of 0.82% V2O5, 35% Fe and 10% TiO2.  The company stated that the new resource estimate will support their aim to  produce 8000 to 10 000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of V2O5.  The company also reported that the project's Mining Lease application was under  consideration by the WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.

AVL also reported on its progress in the developing industry of redox  flow batteries for energy storage. In 2016, the company entered into a joint venture  with German company Gildemeister, the world's largest flow battery producer,  and, in January 2017, AVL announced that it had produced its first batch of  vanadium electrolyte at the University of Western Australia.

Flinders Mines Ltd's 2016 annual report has re-stated the previously  reported Canegrass Inferred Resource  of 107 Mt at 0.6% V2O5, 5.8% TiO2 and 29%  Fe. The Canegrass Project is located  15 km south west of Atlantic Limited's Windimurra deposit, 60 km south east of  Mt Magnet, and is hosted by the Meeline Suite of layered mafic units.

TNG Ltd's Mount Peake iron-vanadium-titanium project is located in the highly prospective Arunta Geological Province  some 80km north-east of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. It is hosted  by the non-outcropping Mount Peake Gabbro. TNG Ltd has successfully secured  numerous agreements from the project's prospective customers and service  providers including with Korean based company, Woojin Industry Company Limited for  life-of-mine off-take of the project's 60% vanadium pentoxide (V2O5)  product.  The definitive feasibility  study (DFS) for the project was completed in 2015 with results indicating a financially  and technically robust project. Some key elements of the study include  production of magnetite concentrate at the Mt Peake mine that will be  transported by haul trucks from site to rail siding for delivery to the TIVAN  refinery facility to be located in Darwin. The project study anticipates a  capacity rate of 3 Mtpa for the first 4 years, then expanding to 6 Mtpa,  with three main products of 17 560 tpa V2O5,  236 000 tpa TiO2 and 637 000 tpa pig iron for an  initial mine life of 17 years.

The project has an estimated JORC Ore Reserve of 41.1 Mt at 0.42% V2O5,  7.99% TiO2 and 28% Fe, which is to be generated from JORC Resources  of 160 Mt at 0.28% V2O5, 5.3 % TiO2 and  23% Fe previously released in 2013.

The latest available resource information for King River Copper Limited's  (formerly Speewah Metals Ltd) Speewah  titanium-vanadium-iron deposits (Central, Red Hill and Buckman, located  approximately 110 km south-west of Kununurra, WA) is from 2012. At that time, the  deposits' estimated JORC Code compliant resource was 4712 Mt at 0.3% V2O5,  2.0% Ti and 14.7% Fe. The company's 2016 annual report noted its exploration drilling  programme's continuing focus on a gold-silver-copper geophysical survey and  some limited drilling.

Surefire Resources (previously Black Ridge Mining NL) continued its exploration  activities comprising a third round of geochemical MMI soil sampling at the Unaly Hill project during 2015 with the  results confirming multi-element anomalies (gold, nickel and  vanadium-iron-titanium) within the tenement areas. Coincidently, the company's  present exploration drilling programme mainly focuses on the Unaly Hill project gold anomaly. The Unaly Hill project  vanadium-iron-titanium resources remain unchanged since the last 2011 estimate  of Inferred Resource of 86.2 Mt at 0.4% V2O5, 4.5%  TiO2 and 24% Fe. The Unaly  Hill project is located approximately 48 km south of Sandstone in WA. The Unaly Hill tenements are hosted by  the Atley Igneous Complex, another component of the Meeline Suite of layered  mafic units.

Notes

  1. FeV and V2O5 prices were sourced from the United States Geological Survey Mineral Year Book 2014 report as noted from the Ryan's Notes published report.
  2. S&P Global  Platts, S&P Global Market Intelligence

Summerfield, D., 2016. Australian Resources Review: Vanadium. Geoscience Australia, Canberra, Australia.