Based on the Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineração’s $10-million investment for R&D on the use of niobium in EV batteries, Roskill issued a report on the company’s prospects and those of the niobium market.
“With a global market share close to 80%, CBMM is now looking to develop new applications for niobium in order to secure new sources of revenues in the face of weakening steel markets; it sees EV batteries as one possible alternative,” the document states.
According to the analyst, the market for niobium in batteries could possibly reach 5kt of ferro-niobium equivalent (3kt of contained Nb) by the middle of the next decade.
CBMM owns the Araxá niobium deposit, which is carbonatite-hosted and consists of primary ore (1.5% Nb2O5) in the core, and residual material (2.5-3% Nb2O5)
Another potential growth market is that of nanocrystalline niobium, currently estimated at 2kt of ferro-niobium equivalent (1.2kt).
“These new applications are still very small when compared to CBMM’s total production capacity of 100ktpy ferro-niobium (60ktpy contained Nb),” Roskill says. “Growth in these markets depends on the progress of technological developments and the economics of commercial-scale ramp-up.”
The consultancy reports that CBMM is planning to expand its production capacity to 150ktpy ferro-niobium in Q4 2020 (90ktpy contained Nb), justified by sustainable demand growth coming from the steel industry.
The group is also considering further expansion to 225ktpy ferro-niobium (135ktpy Nb).
“No doubt, this incremental investment will depend on the future development of the steel industry in China, but it will also depend on whether CBMM’s expectations for new niobium applications materialise,” the document reads.