Tuesday February 19, 2013, 4:15am PST
Tungsten is probably the most familiar of the at-risk metals. But a number of other names could soon become well known to investors.
The antimony market is another that swings with China. Chinese production accounts for 83 percent of the 180,000 MT of antimony produced globally each year.
Several new antimony projects are being evaluated in Canada, Turkey, Italy, Russia and Australia, among others. Production is being hampered, however, by the metal’s toxicity and environmental risks.
Strontium and wollastonite are two other less-known metals with potential supply problems.
China, Spain and Mexico produce 96 percent of the world’s 380,000-MT-per-year supply of strontium, a metal whose anchor use is in glass and ceramics. Iran is noted as one of the few nations that could increase strontium supply.
Wollastonite — used to manufacture plastics, rubber and paints — comes in near-entirety from China, India and Mexico.
A more familiar name making the at-risk list is vanadium. While top-producing nation China controls only 37 percent of global output, the top three countries — China, South Africa and Russia — together account for 97 percent of the market.
Vanadium may be particularly vulnerable to disruption given recent labor unrest in South Africa. The metal also has few substitutes in high-end aerospace alloy applications.
Largo Resources (TSXV:LGO) holds one of the nearest-term sources of alternate supply in its Maracas project in Brazil, now under construction. American Vanadium (TSXV:AVC) is in permitting with its Gibellini project in Nevada.
And PacificOre Mining (TSXV:PC), formerly Apella Resources, started pre-drilling last year on what the company states is one of the largest undeveloped vanadium deposits in the world: the Lac Dore vanadium-titanium project is near Chibougamau, Quebec.
Other vanadium explorers include Energizer Resources (TSX:EGZ), which is bringing forward a graphite and vanadium deposit in Madagascar, and West Melville Metals (TSXV:WMM), which is working to advance its Isortoq iron-titanium-vanadium project in Greenland.