World-Class Vanadium Deposits

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"Vanadium, widely distributed in nature, is not found in metallic form."

Vanadium, widely distributed in nature, is not found in its metallic form. Instead it occurs in as many as 152 different minerals and fossil fuel deposits, like crude oil, coal, or tar sands. Both burning fossil fuels and processing the mineral combinations produces vanadium as a by-product, but rarely in economically viable concentrations.

Never found in pure shale, vanadium accounts for about 0.02% of the earth's resources, estimated to exceed 63 million tons. Those numbers suggest vanadium is more abundant than copper, zinc, nickel and chromium, which would rank vanadium as the 13th most-abundant element in the earth's crust. According to the USGS, China, South Africa and Russia accounted for 98% of the world's production of commercial vanadium in 2009, which topped 54,000 tons. With demand for the element expected to increase, mining companies are exploring potential sites and Australia is poised to become a world leader. Exploration sites in the United States, Canada, and Central and South America also show promise. But, despite all the searching, finding a commercially viable deposit is still rare, finding a world-class deposit is ever rarer.

Although vanadium occurs in a number of elements, it is largely produced commercially as a byproduct of other metals with the vast majority of commercially mined vanadium coming from the processing of various iron ores or uranium. Uranium ore often produces vanadium as a by-product after the uranium has been removed. And, magnetite ores have been known to contain a high percentage of vanadium in their slag.

But, because vanadium is not recovered and extracted from one unique mineral source, there are different methods used to separate the elements. Most produce vanadium pentoxide, which is then reduced with carbon and calcium to produce metallic vanadium.

Vanadium occurs in deposits of titaniferous magnetite, phosphate rock, and uraniferous sandstone and siltstone, in which it constitutes less than 2% of the host rock.

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