What do mineral exploration companies Chalice Gold Mines, King
River Copper, Technology Metals Australia, Vanadium Corp,
Australian Vanadium, Six Sigma Metals, Tando Resources, TNG Ltd
as well as lithium-miner Neometals all have in common? All of
these companies are searching for vanadium, a now sought-after
mineral used in vanadium redox batteries (VRBs).
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS),
vanadium is traditionally used in steel alloy production and is
predominantly mined in China, but also in South Africa, Russia
and Brazil. As a consequence of the US’ import
dependence, the USGS named vanadium on its
final list of critical minerals, announced on May
The VRB sector is expanding thanks to its
wide range of energy applications. Their large
storage capacity and high cycle performance and durability make
these batteries particularly suitable for grid and large scale
industrial and residential uses.
Another mineral that all of these companies have in common is
titanium. This is because geologically speaking, vanadium and
titanium commonly occur together in anorthositic, mafic to
ultramafic rocks and are often referred to as vanadiferous
titanomagnetite (VTM) deposits.
Recent market announcements, explored below, revealed that
investors, explorers and miners are actively seeking to become
the next vanadium producers, and therefore, also the next
These companies are flying under the radar in terms of
titanium, due to their battery-industry focus. Of these
companies, the most advanced projects are held by Australia
Securities Exchange (ASX)-listed companies Neometals Ltd and
On May 8, Neometals, an established lithium producer, reported
that its Western Australia-located titanium-vanadium Barrambie
direct shipping ore (DSO) project was the
subject of bulk-sampling and test work.
The company’s titanium feedstock has been
confirmed to be suitable for high-purity (>99%) titanium
dioxide production, and can be precipitated selectively from a
leach solution at recoveries greater than 90%. Barrambie's
Eastern Band made a total mineral resource for Barrambie is
estimated to be 280.1 million tonnes at 9.18% titanium dioxide
and 0.44% vanadium pentoxide.
Elsewhere, TNG’s Australian Northern Territory
Mount Peake Vanadium-Titanium Iron Project was awarded federal
environmental approval on May 15 of this year. The project,
which contains 160 million tonnes of 5.31% titanium dioxide and
0.28% vanadium pentoxide as part of its resource (as of 2013),
will now need a mine management plan in order to proceed to a
stage where offtake, funding and construction may
A long list of early to mid-stage explorers also exist, and
while they are a long way from production, present another
potential source of titanium in the long term.
ASX-listed explorer Tando Resources commenced exploration on
May 21 on its South African high-grade vanadium project, after
acquiring it from Vanadium Resources Ltd on March 22.
The company’s preliminary estimates on a
concentrate indicate grades of 2% vanadium pentoxide and 13%
Likewise, ASX-listed explorer Chalice Gold Mines announced on
May 23 that it had applied for a number of vanadium focused
exploration licenses in Queensland and Western Australia. The
company notes that the areas are "highly prospective" for
nickel, copper platinum group elements and titanium.
Another Australia-based ASX-listed explorer, Six Sigma Metals,
has recently agreed to acquire "highly prospective"
vanadium-titanium and lithium assets located in Zimbabwe from
Mirrorplex Ltd. The announcement, made on May 17, said that the
acquisition was part of a strategy to "capitalize on the rising
interest in the sector due to recent global [battery]
technology advances". This company has likened its geology to
that of ASX-listed Australian Vanadium’s Western
Australian Gabanintha deposit, as well as ASX-listed King River
Copper’s Western Australian Speerwah
Of these, King River Copper has conducted advanced
metallurgical test work which has resulted in high purity
titanium dioxide and vanadium pentoxide products. Australian
Vanadium has also carried out test work on their project,
resulting in the production of a combined concentrate yielding
around 15% titanium dioxide.
In late February, ASX-listed Technology Metals Australia
reported that it had recovered up to 97.8% vanadium in magnetic
concentrates during metallurgical test work. While initial
results focused on vanadium, early success may pave the way to
future titanium production at this deposit, which contains 9.7%
Despite these companies focused on vanadium production, the
potential volume of titanium dioxide that could be supplied
into pigment markets is substantial.
Minerals reported prices for titanium dioxide pigment, high
quality, bulk volume, cfr Asia, on May 24 at
$2,800-3,100 per tonne, unchanged from the previous week. The
price had been assessed at $2,720-3,100 per tonne a year
Titanium dioxide prices have been rising since early 2017 due
to increased demand driven by the global economic recovery and
the reduction in output due to environmental inspections in
Industrial Minerals reported earlier in May.
While this may be the case, it remains to be seen as to
whether vanadium-driven titanium dioxide production can provide
any pricing relief.