With growing demand from the steel sector and a steady increase in energy storage applications, vanadium has quickly become key project development focus and priority for AIM-listed Bushveld Minerals, says CEO and founder Fortune Mojapelo.
Bushveld Minerals, one of only two vanadium producers in South Africa, is in a unique position - it has a large, high grade primary vanadium deposit portfolio with a combined 440 Mt resource (including 55 Mt combined reserve) with Tier-1 vanadium grades of ~2% V2O5 (vanadium pentoxide) in magnetite, which has helped position the company as an emerging large-scale primary vanadium producer.
Bushveld Minerals has its eyes firmly set on its vision of building the largest, lowest cost and most vertically integrated primary vanadium platform in the world (based on resource size and vanadium production).
This is an opportunity for Bushveld Minerals to carve its name as a pre-eminent vanadium primary vanadium producer at a time of constrained supply and limited new supply prospects – a situation that is expected to lead to a sustained structural market deficit, with significant price upside.
This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 3 2018
Located in South Africa’s Bushveld Complex, host to some of the world’s largest high grade primary vanadium resources, Bushveld Minerals has three key projects, including the newly acquired Vametco vanadium mine and its existing Brits and Mokopane vanadium projects.
“Bushveld Minerals currently produces about 3.5% of total global vanadium,” says Mojapelo.
“Our ambition is to grow this number to more than 5% by 2019 in the near term and more significantly in the longer term through a combination of growth of the company’s current vanadium platform both vertically and horizontally,” he adds.
Bushveld Minerals’ primary resource base consists of the Mokopane vanadium project, a key part of the company’s vanadium strategy.
A scoping study was completed on the project in 2014 and a pre-feasibility study completed in early 2016.
Bushveld Minerals has also submitted a mining right application for the project which is in the final stages of approval.
The Mokopane project, located on the Northern Limb of the Bushveld Complex, has a 298 Mt JORC-compliant resource with vanadium in-magnetite grades of 1.75% V2O5 – a good deposit in that it can be economically unlocked.
Bushveld Minerals acquired a controlling 59.1% interest in Bushveld Vametco in December 2017 which, according to Mojapelo, “has enabled Bushveld Minerals to more meaningfully leverage the vanadium platform it is in the process of developing.”
Bushveld Vametco, located near Brits on the Western Limb of the Bushveld Complex, is an integrated operation and comprises a vanadium ore mine and a processing plant that produces Nitrovan, a trademark product sold in major steel markets across the world.
“With the acquisition of Bushveld Vametco, we now have a production platform and a well versed operations team to drive an increase in production,” says Mojapelo.
To realise this growth, Bushveld Vametco commenced a multi-phased expansion project in 2017 with the aim of increasing annual production to more than 5 000 metric tonnes of vanadium (mtV) over the next three years with the first 2 phases to be executed using a capex of ~US$3 million.
Vertical integration through VRFBs development
Meanwhile, vertical growth is being driven by the company’s interest in developing a deeply integrated vanadium platform by not only producing Nitrovan and modified vanadium oxide products for the steel industry but also diversifying the product portfolio through the supply of electrolytes for VRFBs for the energy storage sector.
With China’s recently released standards on rebar, estimates are that vanadium demand could increase by as much as 30%, while the increasing use of vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) could, by 2030, account for up to 20% of vanadium consumption, creating solid demand.
Bushveld Minerals’ vertically integrated business model is designed to maximise the share of the vanadium value chain in VRFBs.
Owing to its unique characteristics, vanadium is well positioned for large-scale, long duration energy storage using VRFBs.
Through its Bushveld Energy platform, headed by CEO Mikhail Nikomarov, Bushveld Minerals aims to developing utility scale energy storage projects with the focus of supporting Africa’s energy requirements
In doing so, the company is targeting about 1 000 MWh per year of energy storage solutions using VRFBs systems as well as targeting regionally-oriented assembly and manufacturing capacity for VRFBs within five years.