Vanadium Mining in Canada

By Leia Michele Toovey—Exclusive to Vanadium Investing News

Vanadium is a strategic metal and is used in the production of high-quality metal alloys.  It’s most common uses are in high strength steel, in the aerospace industry, and chemical uses- for the production of catalysts, ceramics, glasses and pigments, electronics and batteries.  Vanadium is widely researched, with many new applications in various phases of development. One new development close to fruition is for use in the next generation of vanadium redox batteries to power electric vehicles. Unlike other commodities, there is no market quote for vanadium.  Vanadium is traded by contract, directly between the producers and consumers.

Presently, known global resources are an estimated 63 million tonnes. Vanadium in not found by itself, instead it is found as a trace mineral within other ore bodies and is therefore mined as a by-product of other mining operations. Vanadium is found in magnetite (iron oxide) deposits that are also very rich in the element titanium. It is also found in aluminum ore, rocks with high concentrations of phosphorous-containing minerals, and sandstones that have high uranium content. Vanadium is also recovered from carbon-rich deposits such as coal, oil shale, crude oil, and tar sands.

Most of the vanadium deposits in Canada are associated with layered mafic intrusions, such as

The Lac Doré Complex at Chibougamau, Québec, Anorthosite complexes, such as the Sept Îles complex. There also is substantial vanadium potential in the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta. Mafic Intrusions form when magma migrates through the earth’s lithosphere.  As this magma gets closer to the earth’s surface it cools, and minerals crystallize. Anorthosite complexes are fairly difficult to understand, but generally, the form when a body of magma undergoes some chemical alteration that precedes the precipitation/ crystallization of minerals.

Some of the world’s leading Vanadium exploration companies are located in Canada. Here are some examples:

Gossan Resources Ltd (CVE: GSS) is engaged in the exploration and development of  properties that contain gold, platinum group and base metals, as well as the specialty and strategic  metals  tantalum, lithium, cesium, titanium, vanadium and chromium.

Apella Resources (CVE: APA) is a tier-one, Vancouver based company who holds 100 percent interest in nine properties located in Ontario and Quebec.

Northern Shield Resources Inc. (CVE: NRN) started off in 1999 with a focus on diamonds and platinum in 2006, the company shifted its focus to the Platinum Group Elements (PGE) and base metals including vanadium.

Energizer Resources (CVE: EGZ), formerly Uranium Star, is an exploration company with vanadium interests in Quebec Ontario, and Madagascar.

Rocky Mountain Resources (CVE:RKY) a tier-one metals exploration and development company focused on developing environmentally favorable projects, including a world-class vanadium resource in the state of Nevada, U.S.A., and evaluating other opportunities.

The Future of Vanadium Mining

Governments around the world are looking at ways to secure environmentally friendly energy supplies. Traditionally “green” energy sources, such as the sun and wind, are unreliable sources of electricity production and that’s a big problem for the utilities that deliver power to consumers. Their transmission grids need stable, predictable supplies of electricity. And that’s where vanadium comes in. An emerging technology known as the vanadium redox-flow battery may allow utilities to store the electricity generated by large-scale wind and solar farms until it’s needed.

Vanadium is mined mostly in South Africa, north-western China, and eastern Russia. In 2007, these three countries mined more than 95 percent of the 58,600 tonnes of produced vanadium. Canada is moving up on the list when it comes to vanadium production, and therefore is well positioned to capitalize on the current green energy push. For now, Canada remains a marginal producer of vanadium, but exploration activity is heating up in the region.  The lack of production is definitely not due to lack of supply.  Quebec alone is home to the world’s second largest known vanadium deposit.

Canada hosts potential vanadium deposits in Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, and the Tar Sands in Alberta.  The resource estimate for the country is unknown at this time, but the country does host considerable vanadium pentoxide deposits, the most important supply of the strategic metal.