Clean energy is the topic of the day at the 2022 Diggers and Dealers Mining Conference.
While lithium may be the star of the EV show, there is a strong consensus that a mix of technologies and power sources complementing one another – rather than competing – holds the key to decarbonising economies.
Of the many newly developed technologies in this mix, few have the potential to solve the problem of long-life energy storage like vanadium redox flow batteries.
Vanadium is primarily used in the manufacture of steel alloys, however its suitability for storing renewable energy, capability for grid connection and long life of more than 20 years has given investors and governments plenty to chew on.
Australian Vanadium (ASX: AVL) managing director, Vincent Algar, told delegates that the company’s Australian Vanadium project near Meekatharra in WA is capable of supplying up to 5% of the world’s vanadium.
A bankable feasibility study published in April showed the project was capable of producing high-grade vanadium electrolyte for more than 25 years. The company is targeting final investment decision in the December quarter, with production slated for 2024.
The project consists of a proposed open cut mine, crushing, milling and beneficiation (CMB) plant and a vanadium processing plant.
Concentrate produced at the CMB would be transported to a vanadium processing plant near Geraldton for conversion to vanadium pentoxide.
Mr Algar said that the project’s logistics were unlike any other vanadium producer in the world. The coastal location of the CMB was a key strategic differentiator of the project, allowing the company to utilise gas, road and port infrastructure of the world class mining region of mid-western Western Australia.
Once online, Australian Vanadium would be the world’s fourth vanadium producer.
Paladin Energy (ASX: PDN) CEO, Ian Purdy, had a clear message for delegates, “we’re back”.
The company has greenlit the restart of operations at the Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia, targeting first volumes in the March quarter of 2024.
Nuclear power has been a key player in the clean energy mix for many decades – generating about 47% of all carbon-free energy in the US, and Mr Purdy said that Langer Heinrich would potentially cut CO2 emissions by about 1.3 billion tonnes over the life of the mine.
Once back online, the mine will produce up to 4% of the global uranium supply, and has more than 17 years of operations. Paladin has secured cornerstone offtakes, including up to 65% of production for the first year.
The mine was mothballed in 2018 due to low lithium prices. However, Mr Purdy said that
Langer Heinrich Mine remains a low risk, robust, long-life operation, and Paladin is poised to take advantage of the strong and improving uranium market fundamentals.
Mr Purdy said that the conversation was no longer about price, but supply – with average annual deficit of about ~40Mlb forecast over the coming decade – and that projected production from returning mines will not be sufficient to meet the deficit, with China alone aiming to bring about 150 new reactors online over the next 15 years.