eMetals (ASX: EML) reports that reconnaissance steam sediment sampling at its Nardoo Well project in Western Australia has discovered new niobium, tungsten, tin and tantalum anomalies.
The find was made at a project that has seen several previous explorers come and go over several decades, but the latest results are described by the company as much better than recorded by those earlier explorers.
The sampling results included 217 parts per million (ppm) niobium and 0.03% tin; 335ppm niobium and 0.03% tin; 129ppm tungsten, 183ppm niobium and 0.05% tin; and 113ppm tungsten, 65ppm niobium and 0.03% tin.
eMetals company director Matthew Walker said the company was pleased with the find.
“These results are highly encouraging and far exceed thresholds recorded by previous explorers,” he said.
“The presence of extremely anomalous niobium and tin within the Nardoo East are is unexpected but extremely exciting and demonstrates the potential of the entire project area,” Mr Walker added.
Niobium critical for steel strengthening
About 90% of all niobium used is consumed as ferroniobium in steelmaking.
Niobium increases the strength and durability of steel, vital for such products as jet turbines.
British commodity research house Roskill said in a recent report on niobium that the resulting ferroniobium had seen increasing demand over the past two years.
The introduction of new rebar standards in China caused ferrovanadium prices to spike in 2018, a development which prompted unexpected levels of substitution — to niobium’s advantage.
Chinese steel makers started to use ferroniobium in grade three rebar which, coupled with strong demand for ferroniobium in line pipe and automotive applications, meant that imports into China (and exports out of Brazil) reached record highs, Roskill said.
Other uses include several high-value applications such as alloys, superconductors, electronics and ceramics.
Brazil’s long dominated market
Brazil has by far the world’s largest resources of niobium and has long dominated the global market, with Chinese and Japanese steelmakers vying to take stakes in producers there.
Canada was the only other producer of note.
Since then, explorers have been searching for niobium deposits in other countries to break the Brazilian stranglehold.
Rock chip samples also collected
The Nardoo project is located within the Gascoyne region, 840km north of Perth.
eMetals said stream sediment sampling was chosen as an effective method of exploration.
A similar method was used in 2006 by nickel company Mincor Resources (ASX: MCR) to identify the tungsten skarns at Nardoo Well.
This time, rock chip samples were also collected.
Mincor was only one of several previous explorers.
In 1982, Westralian Sands explored for tungsten; then between 1992 and 2003, Rare Resources hunted for tantalite.