Vanadium Targeted to Increasing Global Demand

Ironstone is poised to become one of the leading suppliers of vanadium pentoxide for use in advanced steels as a hardener, and in renewable energy storage applications. Ironstone's NI 43-101 compliant vanadium resource currently measures 2.45 billion pounds of vanadium pentoxide (557 million tonnes indicated at 0.21% V2O5) as reported by SRK Consulting (Canada) in July 2012.

Vanadium is a strategic rare chemical element with the symbol V and atomic number 23. It is a soft, silvery gray, ductile transition metal with good structural strength, a natural resistance to corrosion and stability against alkalis, acids and salt water. In nature, the element is found only in chemically combined forms occurring naturally in about 65 different minerals and in fossil fuel deposits. Vanadium has remarkable characteristics which give it the ability to make things stronger, lighter, more efficient and more powerful.

In the great infrastructure boom, vanadium is growing much more important. The price of vanadium, as with many of these metals, is on the way up. The increasing vanadium price is no mystery due to strong demand and constrained supply, especially in South Africa, a significant producer of vanadium.

Up to 98 percent of the world’s vanadium comes from only three countries — China, Russia and South Africa. Apart from South Africa, China’s Sichuan province, devastated by earthquake, was also a rich vanadium producer. Moreover, China is becoming as much a consumer of vanadium as a producer. Vanadium exports from China are dropping. China ended its export credits for vanadium because it needed the metal more at home, and recently went further and put an export tariff in place.

China’s vanadium use per quantity of steel is still well behind the curve compared with North America. If China were to use as much vanadium as western steel producers, the vanadium market would face a one-third increase in demand. With increasing global demand for vanadium in steel use, in addition to applications in energy storage, new producers will be well positioned to take advantage of this emerging trend.

Vanadium Use in Advanced High-Strength Steel Products

Over 90% of vanadium consumption today is as ferrovanadium (a mixture of iron and vanadium). Vanadium is primarily used to strengthen and harden steel, offering the benefits of high performance and low cost. Coined the "Electric Metal", its electron deficient structure lends itself well to the formation of more stable nitrides and carbides when added to iron. It is also referred to as the plastics of the 21st century as vanadium creates ultra high-strength and super-light alloys.

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High-strength low-alloy steels (HSLA) are predictably strengthened through the addition of less than or equal to 0.20% vanadium. In addition to increased strength-to-weight ratios, HSLA steels also provide weldability, ductility, elongation, good castability, and a long list of other advantages

Vanadium is becoming one of the most sought after metals in the world. China recently announced that the development of the country’s vanadium industry is a top priority. Approximately half of the world’s vanadium supply comes from China, a country that has gone from being the world’s largest exporter of vanadium to the world’s largest consumer. As China’s urbanization expansion continues, the country’s demand for vanadium for steel use alone is expected to remain strong for the next 10 to 20 years.

Vanadium in Construction Steels

Only a small amount of vanadium is required to dramatically increase its tensile strength, making vanadium one of the most cost-effective additives in steel alloys. These unique characteristics have made vanadium essential in construction applications worldwide. Vanadium is the most widely used alloying element for strengthening steels used in buildings and bridges, and is the most effective alloy for increasing the strength of reinforcing bars used in construction. Various economic and legislative factors are increasing the use of vanadium in the steel industry, like stronger rebar to reduce catastrophic destruction in earthquake prone regions as well as providing the necessary strength demanded by cutting edge architectural design.

VANADIUM IN TRANSPORTATION Steels

Vanadium is a critical alloying element in various aspects of transportation including automotive, as well as in aviation and aerospace, where unlike the steel industry, there is no other metallic substitute. The machinability and economic benefits of vanadium steel find it widely used in components such as axles, crankshafts, gears and chassis. 

In aviation and aerospace, vanadium’s strength and thermal stability is utilized in jet engines. Vanadium foil is used in cladding titanium to steel to make airframes. In this sector, vanadium is irreplaceable as there is no acceptable substitute for vanadium in aerospace titanium alloys due to having the best strength-to-weight ratio of any engineered material on earth.

In car batteries for use in electric and hybrid vehicles, vanadium is being added to various lithium-based battery technologies to produce a car battery that can store more energy boosting distance travelled on a single charge, in addition to providing more power (i.e. torque) and faster charging.

Other Uses of Vanadium

Catalyst and chemical applications using vanadium include:

  • Catalysts for sulfuric acid production
  • Synthetic rubber production
  • Denitrification of industry waste streams
  • Removing carbon dioxide in ammonia plants
  • Treatment of Type 2 diabetes
  • Production of fade-resistant dyes for textiles
  • Improving the light quality of TV and computer screens
  • Producing brilliant colors in ceramics and enamels
  • Protecting optical instrument operators from UV rays

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