Vanadium

Resource figures are current as at 30 December 2014. Commentary is current as at January 2016.

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 number of different 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 fuel deposits such as crude oil, coal and tar sands. It is produced as both a primary product and co-product from mining and most commonly as co-products or by-products of steel making. It is also recovered from wastes such as fly ash, oil residues and waste solutions from the processing of uranium ores.

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.

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 propriety information for subscribers.

The USGS1, using Ryan's Notes, recorded the United States' domestic average FeV price in 2014, as ranging from $12.726 to $13.339 per pound, whereas in Europe the FeV average price in the same period ranged from $25.353 to $25.826 per kilogram. The average price range for both US and Europe showed a slight decrease from the 2013 price range of $13.185 to 13.665 per pound and $27.498 to $28.086 per kilogram, respectively.

Resources

Australia's Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) of vanadium increased by 3% in 2014 to 1910 kilotonnes (kt) from 1853 kt in 2013.

Commodity

Units

Australia

World

JORC Reserves (a)
(% of Accessible EDR)

Demonstrated Resources

Inferred
Resources
(c)

Accessible
EDR
(d)

Mine
Production
2014
(e)

Economic
Resources
2014
(f)

Mine
production
2014
(g)

Economic (EDR) (b)

Subeconomic

Para-marginal

Sub-marginal

Vanadium

Kt

1208 (63%)

1910

14 640

1687

16 412

1910

0

15 000

78

Table 1. Australian and world vanadium resources and production, 2014

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 2014, Proved and Probable Reserves of vanadium, compliant with the Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC) Code, remained the same as in 2013 at 1208 kt. Proved and Probable Reserves account for approximately 63% of accessible EDR. The remaining 37% of EDR comprises Measured and Indicated Resources.

World Ranking

The USGS estimates that world economic resources of vanadium are about 16 million tonnes (Mt) but total world resources exceed 63 Mt. China and Russia each hold about 8% of the world's economic vanadium resources, followed by South Africa with 6%. Australia's EDR of 1.910 Mt represents approximately 3% 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 until the end of next century.

The USGS estimates that world production of vanadium from all sources in 2014 totalled 78 Mt compared to 79 Mt in 2013, with China producing 41 Mt, South Africa 21 Mt and Russia 15 Mt.

Exploration

Data on exploration expenditure for vanadium is not available in published statistics. However, individual resource companies have published expenditure information, including Vanadium Australia Ltd (previously Yellow Rock Resources Ltd), which has reported the successful completion of its exploration program in 2015 at their Gabanintha project. Gabanintha's exploration program in 2015 completed 5955m of reverse circulation (RC) drilling and 761m of diamond drilling. RC-drilling results included some significant intersections at greater than 0.5% V2O5 and wider than 4m. Likewise, the assay results from the diamond drilling included seven significant intersections at greater than 1.0% V2O5 and also greater than 4 m wide.

TNG Ltd's drilling activity in 2015 was mainly conducted as part of the feasibility study geotechnical assessment for its Mt Peak Vanadium-Titanium-Iron project in the Northern Territory. Six diamond drill holes (600m) were drilled along resource areas to assess rock strength in pit wall areas in order to calculate pit slope angles. The company reported technically favourable drilling data, which was incorporated in the project¿s completed definitive feasibility study in mid-2015.

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

Western Australia

Balla Balla: The status of the development of the Balla Balla Vanadium Titanium Magnetite (BBJV) mine project was last reported by the project manager, Rutila Resources Ltd (Rutila) in 2015. The previous project manager stated that the BBJV development process is continuing to progress with the focus on engineering design and development of definitive feasibility studies for the project's port infrastructure, including gaining regulatory approvals. Accordingly, in June 2015, the project received approval for its Rail and Conveyor project from the WA Minister for Environment. Balla Balla project's JORC Resources of approximately 456 Mt at 45% Fe, 0.64% V2O5 and 13.7% TiO2 have remain unchanged since last reported in 2012 by Rutila.

Barrambie: Neometals Ltd (Neometals) has reported the completion of its Barrambie Titanium project's prefeasibility study in 2015. The company states that the study indicated the project's potential for an economically viable hard-rock titanium mining and processing operation. The study aims for an annual production of 98 000 t TiO2, 2000 t of V2O5 and 234 000 t of hematite ore (Fe2O3) for over 19 years. As at October 2015, Neometals reported Barrambie project's 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.

Canegrass: Flinders Mines Ltd's 2015 annual report has re-stated the previously reported Inferred Resource of 107 Mt at 0.6% V2O5, 5.8% TiO2 and 29% Fe.

Gabanintha Vanadium: A new Mineral Resource estimate for the project was reported by Australian Vanadium Ltdin 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 and Petroleum. The Gabanintha vanadium-magnetite-titanium project is approximately 43 km south of Meekatharra, WA.

Speewah: The latest available resource information for King River Copper Ltd's (formerly Speewah Metals Ltd) Speewah titanium-vanadium-iron deposits (Central, Red Hill and Buckman) 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 2015 report notes that its current focus is the exploration of its copper/gold prospects along its Speewah project tenements.

Unaly Hill: Black Ridge Mining NL's exploration activities during 2014 and 2015 included soil sampling using the Mobile Metal Ion (MMI) technique with results identifying some geochemical anomalies (including vanadium, iron and titanium) in the Unaly Hill project.  The company reports that sample results have identified other vanadiferous titanomagnetite prospective zones along undrilled areas that defined an Inferred mineral resource of 86.2 Mt at 0.4% V2O5, 4.5% TiO2 and 24% Fe. The company considers that the use of the MMI technology was an effective exploration tool in outlining discrete anomalies which are thickly overlain by regolith. The Unaly Hill project is located approximately 48 km south of Sandstone in WA.

Northern Territory

Mount Peake: TNG Ltd's definitive feasibility study (DFS) for the Mount Peake iron-vanadium-titanium 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 which will 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. Subject to construction funding agreement and regulatory approvals, TNG aims to commence construction in 2016 with first production in 2018.

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

Queensland

Richmond-Vanadium-Molybdenum: Intermin Resources Limitedstated that its Vanadium-Molybdenum project tenements near Richmond in northwest Queensland covers a large part of the Cretaceous Toolebuc Formation where, coincidently, the project's defined vanadium mineral resources overlie and are contained within a fresh oil shale with organic (kerogen) content capable of generating 60+ litres of oil per tonne of shale. As reported in the company's 2015 annual report, Richmond-V-Mo project has total JORC (2004) Measured, Indicated and Inferred Resources of 5306 Mt grading 0.375% V2O5 and 295 g/t molybdenum trioxide (MoO3).

 

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.

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