Battery Metals

A look at what happened to vanadium in 2014, as well as what 2015 may hold for the metal.

Vanadium has enjoyed a solid if unspectacular year as its price remained stable and demand relatively normal.

The commodity — which is largely used in the construction industry as a reinforcement for steel rebar — has seen increasing use in China and abroad as countries look to create stronger buildings. Its use took a boost when China started using it in 2004 after a series of earthquakes left officials looking for more structurally sound buildings.

For companies it’s been a year of solid upticks. Largo Resources (TSXV:LGO) started production at its Maracas Menchen mine in Brazil, recently hitting between 45 and 60 percent production capacity.

In October, Mark Brennan, CEO and president of the company, said Largo is looking to stay positive in a year that has largely been unkind to the commodities markets.

“Looking at commodities, all of them are suffering and coming down in terms of pricing. Vanadium has had some very good demands over the past few years and we expect that to continue. We are seeing many, many new products using vanadium,” he said.

At the time, Brennan said he saw a bottom price of $5 per pound of vanadium pentoxide; prices are currently hovering in the $5.20-per-pound range.

Terry Perles, a renowned vanadium analyst, said this year didn’t bring the rise in demand he had forecasted, with excess seemingly to blame. He gave two possibilities as to why this happened.

“I will … point to two factors: the existence of ‘excess’ inventory still in the system causing prices to not reflect the true current market fundamentals of supply and demand, and the continuing and growing pressure by Chinese steel producers suffering badly from an economic standpoint on raw material suppliers for lower prices,” he said.

The other large news of the year was the February fire at Atlantic’s (ASX:ATI) Windimurra project, with its benefication plant bearing the brunt of the damage.

What’s next for 2015?

Perles said he expects to see an 8-percent compound annual growth rate, with new production from the fixed Windimurra as well as Largo.

He also pointed to the murky future of the Highveld steel project after Evraz (LSE:EVR) sold a significant stake in the project.

“Highveld produces more than 10 percent of global vanadium supply as a co-product from the steel mill, and any changes in this operation would have a major impact on the vanadium market,” said Perles.


Securities Disclosure: I, Nick Wells, hold no direct investment in any of the companies mentioned in this article.


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