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closeup of a periodic table of elements focused on vanadium

The vanadium market in Australia has proven volatile over the years, but there are many potentially promising companies in the market.

Vanadium is important due to its non-corrosive properties and wide uses. However, due to its unstable state, pure vanadium is not often found in nature, making it rarer than many other industrial metals.

Vanadium was discovered in 1801 by scientist Andrés Manuel del Rio and was named after the Norse goddess Freyja, whose old Norse name is Vanadis. It is a non-corrosive, silver-gray transition metal with high malleability.

The metal is often embedded within compounds, such as vanadinite, carnotite, patronite and phosphate, as well as some iron ores and crude oils. Overall, vanadium is present in around 65 different minerals that naturally occur in trace amounts in some rock formations. It is generally produced by reducing vanadium oxide with calcium.

Once reduced, vanadium is usually mixed with iron to form metal alloys that are used to produce high-strength steel, which can be further used in a variety of essential industrial applications, such as tools, jet engines, oil and gas pipelines, motor vehicle parts and bars for construction.

Aside from its key application in steel, vanadium is used to produce many other materials as well, both industrial and non-industrial, including ceramics, textile dyes, synthetic rubber, fertilizers, electronics and welding materials. It can be used to make alloys in superconductor construction and nuclear engineering, and in its chemical form, vanadium is used to produce sulfuric acid, fuel cells and batteries.

Read on to learn more about this unusual metal, and which companies in Australia are focused on it.

Vanadium in Australia: The current landscape

Vanadium’s top three producers worldwide are South Africa, China and Russia, which are also the countries with the largest vanadium reserves. China is responsible for the majority of the world’s vanadium output at 60 percent, with Russia at 17 percent and South Africa at 7 percent globally. Currently, there are no vanadium mines in the US or Europe, making it a relatively untapped market for most of the western world.

While vanadium is a highly useful and versatile element, its market presence has always been shaky. This is because it is closely tied to the steel industry, meaning that when steel production increases, so does vanadium consumption. This link can cause vanadium’s price to fluctuate rapidly, plummeting and spiking in conjunction with demand for steel. For example, in 2004, vanadium was priced at just US$5.70 per pound, but over the course of the year its price almost tripled, coming in at US$16.89 by 2005.

Unsurprisingly, the vanadium market in Australia has proved volatile over the years, with ups and downs in terms of resource availability and production. While there are quite a few vanadium-focused companies located in Australia, the country has not historically been a top producer of the metal.

Some of Australia’s existing vanadium companies include King River Resources (ASX:KRR), with its Speewah vanadium project located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia; Neometals (ASX:NMT,OTC Pink:RRSSF), with its vanadium-centric Barrambie project in Western Australia; Technology Metals Australia (ASX:TMT), with its Gabanintha project in Western Australia; and Venus Metals (ASX:VMC), with its Western Australia-based Youanmi vanadium project, located just southeast of Windimurra.

Another emerging vanadium miner is Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL), which owns the Australian Vanadium project located in the Murchison region; it spans about 260 square kilometres in Western Australia.

Recently, Canadian firm Currie Rose Resources (TSXV:CUI) announced plans to purchase two Australia-based vanadium projects, Toolebuc and Flinders River; the company plans to bring them together into a project called North Queensland, where the assets are both located.

Vanadium in Australia: The future

Looking ahead, Australia’s vanadium-mining potential is set to grow as interest in vanadium rises.

Demand is anticipated to rise due to the metal’s critical role in battery storage technology, where it is used in vanadium redox flow batteries. This means vanadium mining in Australia could also experience a boom, and the up-and-coming projects mentioned above could bolster vanadium’s growth potential.

For example, Australian Vanadium's Australian Vanadium property was awarded Federal Major Project Status by the Australian government in September 2019 to recognize its national strategic importance; in April 2020, it was awarded State Lead Agency Status by the Western Australian government.

A November 2021 resource update shows the project's total measured, indicated and inferred resource stands at 239 million tonnes at 0.73 percent vanadium pentoxide. It is expected to produce about 11,000 tonnes of vanadium pentoxide annually, accounting for around 5 percent of vanadium output worldwide.

Another Australian vanadium mine under development is Technology Metals' Gabanintha project, a proposed open-pit mine with 29.6 million tonnes of vanadium reserves in the Meekatharra region in Western Australia.

King River Resources is another advanced vanadium developer, and its Speewah specialty metals project has a total measured, indicated and inferred resource of 4,712 million tonnes at 0.33 percent vanadium pentoxide. This project has developed over the past 10 years into a flourishing vanadium deposit and continues to grow.

Neometals’ permitted Barrambie titanium and vanadium project is being developed as well, with hydrometallurgical developments in the works and updates to follow. Currently, the project has a resource of 64.9 million tonnes of vanadium at 0.82 percent vanadium pentoxide.

Finally, Atlantic (ASX:ATI) acquired the Windimurra vanadium project in May 2016. The property is under development at the moment and is located in Western Australia, near Perth and Mount Magnet. It estimates an annual production capacity of around 7,600 tonnes of high-grade vanadium pentoxide flake.

Given the metal’s bright outlook and the promising new ventures in the works, vanadium in Australia is looking better than ever for investors interested in the battery metals space.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Isabel Armiento, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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Australia is home to a thriving tech sector with fresh investment opportunities emerging across a variety of subsectors, such as gaming, fintech, healthcare and cleantech.

The technology sector currently contributes about AU$167 billion to the Australian economy, according to research commissioned by the Technology Council of Australia. This figure has increased by 79 percent from 2016, representing a growth rate that is more than four times that of most industries. In fact, the tech sector is the third largest economic sector in Australia, behind mining and finance/insurance.

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1. Novonix

Market cap: AU$4.45 billion; year-to-date gain: 659.5 percent

The first of the best ASX tech stocks on this list is battery technology company Novonix (ASX:NVX), which specializes in developing battery testing equipment for the worldwide lithium-ion battery market. The company was spun out from Dr. Jeff Dahn’s lab at Dalhousie University; Dr. Dahn is one of the pioneers of the lithium-ion battery.

While not yet a revenue generator, the company has benefited from the explosive growth expected out of the fast-moving global electric vehicle (EV) industry.

In December, Novonix announced preliminary results from an environmental impact study; they show the company’s synthetic graphite EV and energy storage system (ESS) battery anode product offers an approximate 60 percent decrease in CO2 emissions, potentially making it “2.5 times better for the environment than Chinese synthetic graphite EV and ESS battery anode material,” as per the Market Herald.

2. Oneview Healthcare

Market cap: AU$114.57 million; year-to-date gain: 488.89 percent

Oneview Healthcare’s (ASX:ONE) interactive software platform offers digital tools to healthcare providers, patients and families to improve point of care outcomes.

This past spring, the global healthcare tech company launched its cloud-based care platform. “Deployed on Microsoft Azure, this platform enables health systems to quickly adopt technology for engaging patients, reducing non-clinical demands on care teams and optimising clinical and operational effectiveness,” notes a press release.

Oneview has signed a number of contracts for the use of this platform, including with Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, Northern Health in Melbourne and Kingman Regional Medical Center in Arizona. In late November, Oneview raised AU$20 million in a private placement with plans to use the funds to further product development, scale its cloud enterprise and strengthen its balance sheet.

3. Emyria

Market cap: AU$105.86 million; year-to-date gain: 318.48 percent

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4. PlaySide Studios

Market cap: AU$445.38 million; year-to-date gain: 139.13 percent

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PlaySide Studios is Australia’s largest publicly listed gaming technology company, and following its 2020 initial public offering, it generated revenue of AU$10.88 million for the 2021 fiscal year. In November, the company inked a landmark deal with 2K Games, a label of Take-Two Interactive Software (NASDAQ:TTWO).

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5. Universal Biosensors

Market cap: AU$175.98 million; year-to-date gain: 127.59 percent

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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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A large reason for cobalt’s bullish behaviour is that it is used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries, which power electric vehicles (EVs) — as demand for EVs continues to rise, it's likely cobalt demand will remain strong too.

Currently the future of EVs looks bright — the market is growing quickly and is expected to boom over the next decade. In the first half of 2021 alone, EV sales ballooned by 160 percent, and by the end of the year, a total of 15 countries had announced measures to begin transitioning toward an all-electric future.

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1. Jervois Global

Year-to-date gain: 63.89 percent; current share price: AU$0.59

Jervois Global (ASX:JRV) is best known for its Finland operations, which produce cobalt for chemical, catalyst, pigment, powder metallurgy and — most significantly — battery applications. The company is currently in the process of launching its new Idaho Cobalt Operations (ICO) and is on track to become the first US cobalt miner.

On December 15, Jervois announced an update on ICO, saying first ore is expected in August 2022, with sustainable production expected by December 2022. The estimated capital expenditure required to stay on schedule has risen to US$99.1 million, up from US$92.6 million, with mine engineering 64 percent complete.

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Year-to-date gain: 177.78 percent; current share price: AU$0.50

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In December 2021, Cobalt Blue Holdings announced it has executed a memorandum of understanding with the State of Queensland, acting through the Department of Resources, to assess opportunities for the recovery of cobalt (as well as any coexisting base and precious metals) from mine waste.

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Year-to-date gain: 31.25 percent; current share price: AU$0.21

Australian Mines (ASX:AUZ) is aiming to supply metals to the growing EV industry, with a focus on ethical and sustainable production. Its flagship Queensland-based Sconi nickel-cobalt project boasts a mine life of over 30 years and will be capable of processing 2 million tonnes of ore annually.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Isabel Armiento, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.