AIM-listed junior explorer/developer Bushveld Minerals continues to make strides in realising its vanadium aspirations, leveraging its Greenfields position in the South African vanadium exploration, mining and processing space.

Fresh from the recent completion of its full take-over of ASX-listed Lemur Resources – bringing in about A$12 million in cash and a coal asset in Madagascar – the company is moving swiftly realise its stated ambition to build a globally significant vanadium business.

The plan is to supply into the robust global steel market – and interestingly for a company with its footprint in a country facing serious power supply challenges – to access burgeoning interest worldwide in the energy storage potential of vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs).

At a media briefing on the sidelines of the recent Joburg Mining Indaba, Bushveld CEO Fortune Mojapelo said the company is considering several restructuring options to give effect to its focus on vanadium going forward.

This could see the emergence of a dedicated Bushveld Vanadium Resources (BVR) as the flagship of Bushveld Minerals – currently a pan-African explorer/developer with multiple mineral assets, including tin and coal – the objective being to provide new investor opportunities in vanadium.

Anchor vanadium project

Mojapelo flags as BVR’s anchor the Mokopane Vanadium Project (BVP). On the northern limb of South Africa’s vanadium-rich Bushveld Complex, this is a 300 Mt outcropping resource, along a 5 km strike near Mokopane.

A successful scoping study on Mokopane was completed in 2014 and a pre-feasibility study (PFS), is in progress. The plan is then to proceed to a bankable feasibility study (BFS) with a strategic partner while exploring opportunities for brownfield installed processing infrastructure, both ideally with a strategic partner on board.

While the company awaits the award of a mining right, an environmental impact assessment has been completed, submitted to and accepted by the Department of Mineral Resources as required in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002 (Act No 28 of 2002).

Consolidation

Critical elements in the BVR story, according to Mojapelo are:

  • the establishment and consolidation of high-grade vanadium deposits on all three limbs of the Bushveld Complex, with close proximity to established logistics and processing infrastructure, using an extensive database already developed; and
  • a “pragmatic, realisable path to production, with modest capital expenditure requirements”. Key to accelerating the time to production and reducing capital requirements are the acquisition of several Brownfields processing infrastructure opportunities available to BVR in South Africa, and access to important power and logistics infrastructure.
  • Supporting the vanadium demand outlook by actively developing market opportunities for energy storage applications through vanadium redox flow batteries.

Mojapelo points to the Brits Vanadium project on the western limb of the Bushveld Complex, recently acquired through Lemur Resources, as a potential for sensible exploitation of synergies.

“With an ore body that is an extension of the Vametco mine orebody and historical data pointing to an in-concentrate V2O2 grade of more than 2%, the Brits project is adjacent to both Evraz’s Vametco operation and Glencore’s Rhovan operation, within 150km of processing infrastructure, and well serviced by rail."

Vanadium market

Mojapelo says vanadium is a very attractive commodity. Its demand outlook is well supported by the global steel industry which accounts for approximately 90% of consumption, with significant emerging upside from the energy storage sector through VRFBs.

Meanwhile, a concentrated and limited supply growth profile in the vanadium production can be expected to provide price support in the medium to long term. That 67% of supply is linked to co-product steel producers processing relatively low grade vanadium-bearing magnetite deposits and operating under strained economics presents significant threats to vanadium supply - a threat that is heightened by the opportunity for these steel plants to switch to cheaper haematite iron ore (non-vanadium bearing) feedstock imports.”

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