Title Minor Metals Markets - Antimony, Molybdenum, Niobium Degree of recognition National Media name/outlet ResourceStocks Magazine - Aspermont Media type Duration/Length/Size 1 page Country Australia Date 1/10/12 Description Digging Deeper likes to think of itself as the column that touches upon parts of the Periodic Table that others do not reach – hence the focus upon boutique mineral commodities.
That said, investment in exploration companies targeting specialist commodities should perhaps come with a health warning: Entering such markets as a successful miner is a very difficult task – and takes considerable time for a company to achieve (in some cases over 10 years). Indeed, for a number of the minerals where specialist industrial applications are the main driver of demand – actually finding the mineral deposit in the first instance is the relatively easy part. The tougher challenges then come in project financing, cost-efficiently producing a saleable product and in locking in favourable contractual off-take terms for that product in the market. Nevertheless there are some interesting commodities in which ASX-listed companies are making tangible progress by exploring and developing mineral deposits amongst the specialist metals and minerals. Here is a speed-date covering three emerging mineral markets that could generate future excitement – antimony, molybdenum and niobium - highlighting some notable companies in each.
Antimony’s main use (as antimony trioxide) is to act as a flame retardant in clothing, household products and in plastics. Antimony is also used in lead-acid car batteries to extend battery life, in corrosion-resistant pumps, anti-friction bearings and also in selected ammunition alloys. Other uses include pharmaceuticals, microelectronics, fireworks, pesticides, specialist glasses, fluorescent light bulbs and in mobiles. The global market sits around 200,000 tonnes.
Anchor Resources (AHR) has delineated an antimony resource at Wild Cattle Creek within the company’s Bielsdown project in New South Wales. At a 0.5 per cent Sb cut-off, the resource sits at 1.06 million tonnes grading 1.77 per cent antimony with associated gold and tungsten mineralisation.
Northwest Resources (NWR) are exploring their Nullagine gold-antimony project in Western Australia’s Pilbara region with a view to producing a saleable antimony product. The company’s project contains up to 4 per cent antimony with a bankable feasibility study targeted for completion by end 2012.
Molybdenum demand continues to be driven largely by the steel sector which represents around 75 per cent of global offtake. Molybdenum in steels adds to strength, toughness and wear resistance. China continues to be a key source of growth, now accounting for approximately 35 per cent of global consumption of molybdenum. Beyond stainless and low alloy steels, other molybdenum uses include super-alloys, chemicals and castings. Molybdenum chemicals are also used in applications such as catalysts, lubricants, corrosion inhibitors, smoke suppressants and pigments.
Ivanhoe Australia (IVA) plans to produce 5,100 tonnes molybdenum per annum from its high-grade Merlin project in Queensland where grades exceed 1.3 per cent molybdenum. Feasibility studies completed in April 2012 estimate a $345 million capital cost. Merlin is the world’s highest grade molybdenum (and rhenium) deposit.
Some 85 per cent of all niobium is used in the steel industry as an additive to make high strength low alloy steel products. The more sophisticated ‘high end’ of the steel market will add around 57 grams of niobium into every tonne of steel to increase the tensile strength of steel products. Other attributes are its high temperature strength and anti-corrosive properties.
Niobium in steel products is used for major construction projects, oil and gas pipelines and automotive components.
Presently, only 10 per cent of steel products contain niobium, and it is regarded as the high-end part of the steel market. Western steel production contains a greater percentage of niobium steel products than the steel production from developing nations. In time, however, this 10 per cent figure is expected to grow substantially, driven by two related factors: firstly, the increasing sophistication of the steel industries in the high-growth developing nations and secondly, through regulation. Building, equipment and automobile performance specifications will increasingly become mandatory in the use of higher-end steel products. In line with this trend, China is the main growth area for niobium demand.
Globe Metals & Mining (GBE) is seeking to develop the Kanyika niobium Project in central Malawi. Globe is advancing the project with a view to mine supply to a processing facility with output of 3,000 tonnes per annum niobium metal as ferroniobium. Globe plans to dual list in Toronto and spin-out its non-core assets into a separate listing in order to focus on Kanyika.
Alkane Resources (ALK) has outlined significant niobium mineralisation grading, 0.46 per cent Nb2O5, at the poly-metallic Dubbo zirconia project in New South Wales. The company is seeking to produce a combined niobium-tantalum concentrate and ferroniobium as saleable products. Niobium products will represent around 20 per cent of Dubbo’s combined revenue stream (with rare earths then zirconium the principal revenue streams at 45 and 35 per cent respectively).
Producer/Author Allan Trench Persons Allan Trench
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