Niobium is a rare metal used in many industrial applications. In recent years, niobium price and demand have been steadily rising, with significant implications for the global economy. With the increasing demand for this metal, the implications on niobium prices are far-reaching. This blog post will take a closer look at what exactly niobium is, how it’s mined, and the causes of the rising niobium demand.
What Exactly is Niobium?
Niobium, alias columbium, is a chemical element found naturally in the earth’s crust. It’s gray, soft, and used in various industrial applications. Niobium has several properties that make it the golden element for many industries, such as high corrosion resistance and malleability. In addition to these qualities, niobium is very resistant to oxidation, making it an ideal material for use in the aerospace industry.
Niobium is primarily used as an alloying agent for steel and other metals. It has become increasingly popular in the auto and aerospace industries due to its strength and lightweight characteristics. It has become an increasingly valuable commodity in recent years, causing the demand to skyrocket. This rise in demand has had far-reaching implications for the global economy.
How is Niobium Mined?
Niobium is mined from the Columbite-tantalite mineral ore often found in areas with large pegmatite and placer deposits. Like most valuable metals, the ore is typically mined using either open pit or underground methods.
Open-pit mining involves removing soil and rock layers to access the niobium ore and introducing large, earth-moving equipment to do the rest of the extraction. The ore is then transported to a processing plant where it’s crushed, ground, and treated to extract niobium.
Underground mining, on the other hand, involves drilling tunnels into rocks to access the niobium ore, extracting it using specialized mining equipment, and then transporting it to the surface for processing. This method is often employed when the ore is in hard-to-reach areas.
After transportation to the necessary facility, the ore is crushed into small pieces and passed through a grinder to create a fine powder. This powder is then heated to separate niobium from the rest. After successful extraction, the niobium is melted into a liquid form and cast into ingots or other necessary shapes.
Causes of Rising Demand and the Impact on Niobium Price
Growing demand has seen niobium prices rise steadily over the last decade. But why is this metallic element suddenly so popular and important? Here are some reasons:
Increased Global Steel Production
Niobium is an alloying element in steel production. With the recently increased demand for steel in construction, transportation, and other industries, there has also been a growing demand for niobium.
Growing Use of Niobium in High-Tech Applications
Niobium has proven valuable in various high-tech applications such as aerospace, nuclear energy, and electronics. Its use as a superconductor is set to grow even more as the technology is applied to more industries.
Increased Focus on Sustainability
The environmental impact of niobium mining and processing is minimal since the element isn’t toxic and doesn’t pose significant risks to human health or the environment. As if not impressive enough, niobium has a high strength-to-weight ratio and facilitates the production of low-emission vehicles and other green technologies since it can help reduce the weight of aerospace, and auto productions, decreasing fuel consumption.
This has seen the demand skyrocket and niobium prices increase as more enterprises transition to using it for sustainability and its unique properties.
The rising demand for niobium is likely to continue as new technologies and industries continue to develop, driving the need for more niobium-based products. Companies and investors should keep an eye on the market trends and prices of niobium to make informed decisions.