Kazakhstan is expected to become one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of vanadium to the global market in the coming years, that will take place through the acceleration of development of some of the country’s largest vanadium fields, which was recently announced by the British Virgin Islands-based Ferro-Alloy Resources (FAR).
Nicholas Bridzhen, CEO of Ferro-Alloy Resources, said the company plans to invest up to KZT5.2 billion (US$16 million) in the development of the Balasauskandyk field, (Kazakhstan’s largest vanadium field in terms of reserves), as well as to allocate funds in the expansion of a processing plant, which is built on the basis of the field.
The company already produces vanadium at the Balasauskandyk, however, to date, the volumes of production have been insignificant.
Still, according to plans of FAR, production should be increased up to 2,000 tonnes per year already by the first half of 2018 and up to 24,000 tonnes by 2022.
In addition to production, processing capacities of the existing plant will be also increased from the current 450 tonnes of vanadium pentoxide per year.
In the case of Balasauskandyk, the total reserves of the field are estimated at more than 100 million tonnes of different metals. In addition to vanadium, the field is characterized by large reserves of carbon, uranium, molybdenum, aluminum and some REEs, which can be produced as related products.
According to plans of FAR, the development of Balasauskandyk could be beneficial for investors due to low costs. These could be explained by the location of the field’s ores close to the surface, which ensures production by the open method. In addition, the ores of the field are characterized by low iron content, which makes them suitable for cheaper leaching, without the need for preliminary enrichment or sintering (which is typical for other vanadium fields).
According to Bridzhen, the development and operation of Balasauskandyk could be associated with the lowest investments, ever allocated in the development of this type of vanadium field.
A spokesman of FAR said that the company has already completed the development of an innovative vanadium extraction technology, that will be used during the development of the field. The new technology is based on autoclave leaching and ensures the extraction of more than 90% of vanadium, along with uranium, molybdenum, REE and other metals.
To date, Ferro-Alloy Resources has already invested US$25 million in the development of the field and plans further investments in the increase of production.
It is planned that part of the needed funds will be attracted by the company through the placement of its shares either on the Kazakhstan or London Stock Exchange, which should take place by October 2017.
Bridzhen said that vanadium, that will be produced at Balasauskandyk, will be supplied both to the domestic and foreign markets.
In recent years the sphere of use of vanadium has significantly expanded. For example, the metal is currently used in the production of vanadium batteries, a type of batteries, that can be considered as better analogs for lithium-ion batteries.