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.
Australia's Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) of vanadium increased by 17% to 2111 kilotonnes (kt) in 2016 from 1802 kt in 2015.
JORC Reserves (a)
Economic (EDR) (b)
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.
All of Australia's EDR of vanadium are accessible.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- S&P Global Platts, S&P Global Market Intelligence
Summerfield, D., 2016. Australian Resources Review: Vanadium. Geoscience Australia, Canberra, Australia.