Source: Brasil Mineral

Date: 12/January/2012


The ore of the future, as it is known, will not be impacted by the financial crisis. Brazil’s participation in the international niobium mining area is about 96% of the world production. In Minas Gerais is concentrated about 91% of the total of the country, more specifically in Araxá, in the Upper Paranaíba, where the Brazilian Company for Mining and Metallurgy (CBMM) operates the largest of the three large mines in operation worldwide. The company, which has reserves estimated to last for 200 years, expects a growth of 60% in sales of niobium by 2015. Part of this increase is based on the possibility of major contracts with China, according to the Brazilian Mining Institute (Ibram).

Iron-niobium, obtained from unprocessed niobium found in the underground, is used by leading technology industries. Therefore, the mineral is known as the ore of the future. Even with the instability of the world economy, demand for the product is not impacted. “And we do not think it’s going to happen, at least in the next years,” said Cinthia Rodriguez, manager of Economic Data at Ibram.

Iron-niobium may, for example, help to produce lighter cars, which consume less fuel. An average car weight between 800 and 1,000 kilos of steel. If about 100 and 150 kilos are removed from the cars, it will save one liter of gasoline for every 200 kilometers run. In large infrastructure works, it is possible to use stronger steel and to build a similar structure 60% lighter.

The demand is concentrated in industrialized and most technologically developed countries, where about 80 to 100 grams of this ore are used for each ton of steel. China still has a low rate of use of niobium to produce steel (25 grams per ton), although being already the second largest buyer of the product in the world. The Brazilian iron-niobium is marketed to 23 countries, and a very small portion is consumed domestically. The main customer is the Netherlands, which has signed 30.5% of all contracts, followed by China with 20.2%. Following are Singapore (14.6%), the United States (14.6%) and Japan (9.2%).

In 2012, as there is no increased in the production, exports should remain stable. “The production is almost the necessary to meet the demand. CBMM, which is practically the only supplier, is working to develop and encourage research on the application of the product. Despite the crisis, there was no reduction in demand, but there will be no increase by now,” said Cinthia Rodriguez.

The present context for this segment is weak since projections are made for very long-term. “There is still a lack of knowledge about niobium applications,” According to her, since there is a concentration of production and demand is stable, prices should remain stable in 2012, similar to those of last year. A ton of niobium was sold in 2011 for US$ 26,335, up 14% over 2010.

Besides the large production, Brazil has the largest known reserves of niobium, greater than those of Canada and Australia. The measured reserves of the mineral (Nb2O5), approved by the National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM) and accounted for, totaled 842 million tons, with an average content of 0.73% of Nb2O5. They are concentrated in the states of Minas Gerais (75.08%), in Araxá and Tapira, also in Alto Paranaíba; in Amazonas (21.34%) in São Gabriel da Cachoeira and Presidente Figueiredo, and in Goiás (3.58 %), in the cities of Catalão and Ouvidor.

CBMM is the only company to supply the Brazilian market. All production of the other companies is designed to meet the overseas market.

Source: Hoje em Dia

Date: 17/January/2012