Investing News Network • November 30, 2016
Although vanadium is widely distributed, by nature it is not found on its own. Instead, it occurs in roughly 65 minerals, including carnotite, roscoelite, vanadinite, mottramite and patronite, and fossil fuel deposits.
Most recent data provided by the US Geological Survey (USGS) notes that world resources of vanadium exceeds 63 million tons. In addition to the above, vanadium is also found in deposits of phosphate rock, titaniferous magnetite, uraniferous sandstone and siltstone, although it makes up less than two percent of the rock. What’s more, vanadium is also also found as a byproduct of uranium mining.
The USGS further reports that because vanadium is mostly found as a byproduct or co-product, its hard to tell how many available supplies there truly are.
On that note, Brazil, China, Russia and South Africa accounted for most of the world’s production of vanadium in 2015, topping 79,400 tonnes.
Although the vanadium market has struggled in recent years, it’s expected that global demand for vanadium will more than double by 2025, according to Merchant Research & Consulting.
World-class vanadium deposits
As mentioned above, vanadium is found in deposits of titaniferous magnetite, phosphate rock, and uraniferous sandstone and siltstone. While Brazil, China, Russia and South Africa are the 4 top-vanadium producing countries, it is an industry that is growing.
Australia, Canada, Peru (which once hosted the first industrial-scale vanadium mine in the world), and even in Utah and Nevada, all have the potential to become powerhouse producers of the metal.
In other words, it’s fair to say that vanadium is not mined from a specific mineral.
Types of deposits
Although vanadium is found in a wide range of minerals, here’s a look at a few deposits.
- Titaniferous magnetite is allegedly the most important source for vanadium, accounting for 85 percent of its world production. It’s typically mined in South Africa and China before being processed for vanadium extraction.
- Phosphate rock is typically used for the production of fertilizers, of which vanadium is a byproduct, which has been touched o above. According to the USGS, China, Morocco and the US are the largest producers of phosphate rock. Although the rock is found all around the world, it is not a major source of commercial vanadium.
- Uraniferous sandstone and siltstone also contain less than two percent of vanadium. Sandstone is medium to coarse-grained sedimentary rock, often deposited in a continental fluvial or marginal marine sedimentary environment. Siltstone is a sedimentary rock, which has a grain size in the silt range, and is finer than sandstone.
With global demand for vanadium expected to leapfrog significantly over the next decade, here’s a look at some vanadium companies developing and advancing projects.
VanadiumCorp (TSX:VRB): VanadiumCorp has a number of projects in Quebec, with hopes of becoming the only primary producer of vanadium in North America, together with becoming the world’s first vanadium battery electrolyte producer.
In particular, the company has the Lac Dore vanadium project, encompassing a vanadium-bearing titaniferous magnetite deposit with a concentrate grade of 1.08 percent. Its other vanadium project, the Iron-T vanadium deposit is currently in the development stage for long-term growth. According to its website, VanadiumCorp’s vanadium resource is estimated at 621,214,000 pounds inferred in concentrate.
Largo Resources (TSX:LGO): Largo Resources alleges it is the only pure-pay producer of vanadium, currently focused on production at its Maracas Menchen mine in Brazil. Production commenced in August 2014, and has achieved record production in 2016, producing just under 6,000 tonnes year-to-date. It has an annual production of 9,600 tonnes.
Bushveld Minerals (LON:BMN): The Bushveld Vanadium project is located in South Africa and contains approximately 20 billion tonnes of vanadium as well as titanium, representing 26 percent of the world’s vanadium reserves. According to the company’s website, the region is a growing vanadium-producing region, with four operations comprising of 25 percent of global vanadium production.
TNG (ASX:TNG): Based in Australia, TNG is currently focused on developing its Mount Peake vanadium-titanium-iron project. The deposit was discovered in 2008, when TNG outlined a magnetite-bearing gabbro containing high-grade vanadium, titanium and iron.
In November 2016, TNG announced that the Mount Peake Traditional Owners had given TNG approval for the construction of causeways to haul road access to the site.
The company holds a 50 percent interest in the Pipestone Deposit, although it has been on hiatus for quite some time. Discussions regarding the future of the project resumed in July 2016.
Vanadium is widely distributed in nature, but not found in its metallic form. Instead it occurs in as many as 152 different minerals and fossil fuel deposits, like crude oil, coal, or tar sands. Both burning fossil fuels and processing the mineral combinations produces vanadium as a by-product, but rarely in economically viable concentrations.
Never found in pure shale, vanadium accounts for about 0.02% percent of the Earth’s resources, exceeding 63 million tonnes. Those numbers suggest vanadium is more abundant than copper, zinc, nickel and chromium, which would rank vanadium as the 13th most-abundant element in the Earth’s crust.
According to the US Geological Service, Brazil, China, Russia and South Africa accounted for most of the world’s production of commercial vanadium in 2015, which topped 79,400 tonnes. With demand for the element expected to increase, mining companies are exploring potential sites. Exploration sites in the United States, Canada, and Central and South America also show promise. But, despite all the searching, finding a commercially viable deposit is still rare, finding a world class deposit is ever rare.
Although vanadium occurs in a number of elements, it is largely produced commercially as a by-product, or a co-product, of other metals with the vast majority of commercially mined vanadium coming from the processing of various iron ores or uranium. Uranium ore often produces vanadium as a by-product after the uranium has been removed. And, magnetite ores have been known to contain a high percentage of vanadium in their slag.
But, because vanadium is not recovered and extracted from one unique mineral source, there are different methods used to separate the elements. Most produce vanadium pentoxide, which is then reduced with carbon and calcium to produce metallic vanadium.
As a general rule, if the oxidized minerals contain a high grade of vanadium, a roasting process with sodium chloride can be employed to produce extract the vanadium pentoxide. This process also works with a sulphide ore containing a high vanadium content. Lower grade ores require a more complicated process involving pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical operations.
Heating ore containing vanadium with sodium chloride or sodium carbonate at approximately 900°C produces sodium vanadate, which is dissolved in water and then acidified and melted to form vanadium pentoxide
Alkaline fusion can also be used to dissolve vanadates, which are oxygen compounds containing vanadium. Then, with several additional steps, the vanadates are processed into vanadium pentoxide.
Vanadium occurs in deposits of titaniferous magnetite, phosphate rock, and uraniferous sandstone and siltstone, in which it constitutes less than 2 percent of the host rock. While China, Russia and South Africa all have significant vanadium resources that are currently in production Australia is poised to become a world leader and other vanadium deposits including those in Peru, Australia, Nevada, Colorado and Utah, all have commercial potential.
Titaniferous magnetite deposits can be found around the world in basic igneous rock and in some metamorphic rock. The deposits occur as tubular or irregular shaded bodies or seams and vein-like areas or in layers. Titanium is usually mined with vanadium, which composes between 0.1 and 2 percent of the resource.
Some tifaniferous magnetite deposits can be found in the Bushveld Complex in South Africa, Sept-Iles, Quebec and the McClure Mountain Complex, Colorado.
Phosphate rock is used widely to produce commercial fertilizers and vanadium is one of a number of by-products. China, the United States and Morocco are the world’s largest miners of phosphate rock; each produces about a quarter of the total world production.
Phosphate is readily found around the world, though high-grade sources are declining, but it is not a major source of commercial vanadium.
Uraniferous Sandstone and Siltstone
Sandstone and siltstone uranium deposits also contain between 0.1 and 2 percent vanadium. Sandstone is medium to coarse-grained sedimentary rock, often deposited in a continental fluvial or marginal marine sedimentary environment. Siltstone is a sedimentary rock, which has a grain size in the silt range, and is finer than sandstone.
The primary US source of vanadium is the uraniferous sandstone in the Colorado Plateau, where the sandstone is primarily mined for uranium, but vanadium forms part of more than 40 minerals in the plateau’s ores, including amounts of vanadium silicates and oxide-vanadates, which are created as a by-product of extracting the uranium.
Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Gabon, and South Africa also have large uraniferous sandstone deposits.
Examples of World Class Deposits
The Windimurra Vanadium Project in Western Australia is operated by Atlantic Ltd (ASX:ATI). When in production, the project will have the potential to produce 4,800 tonnes of contained vanadium per year.
The Kachkanar mountain is located in the Ural Mountains, Russia and operated by Evraz (LON:EVR). It is is the only source of vanadium-bearing iron ore in Russia. The company also operates the EVRAZ Stratcor facility in Arkansas, which produces up to 12 million pounds per year of high-purity vanadium oxide; another one of its facilities is the EVRAZ Vanady Tula, which produced 8,500 metric tonnes of vanadium in 2015.
Vantra Vanadium Mine in Brits, South Africa which was operated by Highveld Steel and Vanadium (OTC:HGVLY). It previously had the capacity to produce 5 million kgs of vanadium oxide per year. The company closed its doors in February 2016.