Northern Territory Greenlights Major Australian Vanadium Project
The Northern Territory (NT) in Australia has signed a key project facilitation agreement with the Australian resource company TNG for a $850million mining resource project.
The Mount Peake Vanadium-Titanium-Iron Project, which will generate more than 17000 construction jobs, will be a state of the art metals processing facility located in the Alice Springs area of Northern Territory, Australia.
TNG’s Managing Director Paul Burton said the signing of the Project Facilitation Agreement with the NT Government marked another exciting milestone for the Mount Peake Project as it continued to advance towards development.
“The project has already been awarded Major Project Status in the Northern Territory, and this agreement is a further indication of the proactive and positive approach which the Northern Territory Government is adopting to help facilitate the development of this major new Australian resource project,” he said.
The $850m Mount Peake Iron-Vanadium-Titanium Project
First discovered in in 2008 when TNG outlined a magnetite-bearing gabbro containing high-grade vanadium, titanium and iron. The mineralisation commences at shallow depths making the deposit readily amenable to open pit mining.
The PFA covers plans to develop the TIVAN metals refinery.
TIVAN is a new process designed primarily for extracting vanadium, preferably as vanadium pentoxide, from a titano-magnetite ore body, (a geological igneous rock formation that contains significant quantities of iron, titanium and vanadium), and also for separating the titanium and iron preferably as ferric oxide and titanium dioxide,
It is a unique method of extracting vanadium, with the original method consisting of a salt-roasting energy intensive, pyro metallurgical process.
Vanadium is described by TNG as “miracle metal”, used to impart strength, hardness and water resistance to steel, in the manufacture of titanium alloys used in jet engines, airframes and other high-end specialty materials, and in the chemical industry, notably in batteries, plastic, glass and pigments.
Steel accounts for over 85 percent of vanadium demand, with consumption predicted to increase at similar rates to the growth of the global steel industry – driven by the rapid expansion of the Chinese economy and growing per capita use and intensity of use of steel in the BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
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British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.