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Resources Monitor reports on mining, petroleum and electricity projects in Australia.
Projects such as the $500 million Lake Mackay potash project in Western Australia; the planned terminal at the former Shell refinery in Geelong in Victoria (now operated by Viva Energy) for the import and conversion into gas of liquefied natural gas; and the Kidston renewable-energy project in far north Queensland, initially comprising a pumped-hydro component, to be followed by wind and solar components.
And others such as the expansion of the Renison tin mine in Tasmania, the conversion of coal into synthetic gas at Leigh Creek in South Australia, the planned Isaac Downs coal mine in Queensland; and the 290-megawatt Wollar solar farm in New South Wales.
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Source: Stephen Codrington
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THE GROWING IMPORTANCE OF VANADIUM
2 June 2021
Vanadium is mainly used to harden steel. This was first seen on a large scale in the early 20th century, with vanadium used to harden steel in the chassis of the Ford Model T (see image below).
More recently, interest in vanadium has been growing because of its role in vanadium flow batteries, which offer almost unlimited energy capacity and are typically associated with electrical grids, including power plants.
Australia has at least four vanadium projects at a feasibility stage or beyond: Gabanintha and Australian Vanadium (both in Western Australia), Mount Peake (Northern Territory) and St Elmo (Queensland).
Processing of vanadium ore is typically high cost and has been a barrier to the development of the sector in Australia. However, the use of vanadium in batteries has led to Australia – along with the United States, the European Union and Japan – treating it as a “critical mineral”. With this status comes the possibility of Federal government financial assistance for some or all of these projects and thus their development.
China produces some 60% of the world’s mined vanadium, with nearly all the remainder coming from Russia, South Africa and Brazil.
Over the last 15 years, vanadium prices have been steady at US$5-6 per pound, apart from two price spikes in 2008 and 2018. In the last six months, prices have increased from US$5 to US$8 per pound, confirming the view of commodity analyst Roskill in late 2020 that prices were then at a bottom.
Vanadium flow batteries offer the mineral a promising medium-term future. However, in the short term, vanadium demand “will have to come from essentially the same supply base as it has been” (Roskill) – that is, the steel industry. And this looks promising: in a report in April, the World Steel Association forecast growth in steel demand of 5.8% this year and 2.7% in 2022.