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Vanadium junior has expansive plans for long-life operation, mulling JSE listing

VR8 planning to enter active area.

VR8 CEO John Ciganek interviewed by Mining Weekly's Martin Creamer. Video: Darlene Creamer.

VR8 planning to enter active area.

24th January 2024

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) ­– Keep an eye on Vanadium Resources (VR8). It’s a motivated ASX-listed, JSE-mulling junior that is thinking expansively in line with the potentially very long life mine that it is setting out to develop in South Africa’s expansive Bushveld Complex.

VR8’s Steelpoortdrift mine project’s 680-million-ton resource is poised to give the company a potential 180-year lifespan.

Its operations are expected to be in production by the end of 2026 and early 2027, with a beneficiation plant next to the mine producing a vanadium-rich concentrate. The intention is for that concentrate to enable the proposed downstream Tweefontein processing facility to produce a vanadium pentoxide flake for the steelmaking market and for vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) manufacture, with demand for vanadium expected to grow significantly in the next five to ten years off the back of VRFBs.

Of great advantage to the vanadium aspirant is that the processing site lies in the heart of Steelpoort Valley, where many mining and processing operations are already active, ensuring access to virtually everything it will be needing.

Once production is well under way, the longer-term vision of VR8 is to become a vertically integrated operation that advances to vanadium electrolyte production and battery manufacturing.

“We've got a massive deposit. We're in the heart of Steelpoort. We're surrounded by some of the major platinum, chrome and vanadium operators, and by industry, consultants, and engineering.

“You don't get that in other jurisdictions in places that I've worked, in remote locations in Western Australia, Australia or in South America or other areas of Africa, where you don't have access to a lot of things.

“Having a project of this magnitude, a tier-one asset, first-quartile facility, first-quartile operation, in the Bushveld, it's eminently bankable,” VR8 MD and CEO John Ciganek outlined to Mining Weekly in a Zoom interview. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)

Mining Weekly: What is the latest news on your two projects?

Ciganek: Our Steelpoortdrift and Tweefontein projects are advancing very well, with a lot of the feed work being developed on both the projects. Technically, we've moved a long way from having a feasibility study over 12 months ago and we're building a team, which is progressing very well.

What will be VR8’s mining method?

It's going to be open cut. The orebody outcrops so it has a low strip ratio. That puts us in a very good place on the cost curve internationally. We’re very competitive. Next to the mine, we'll be building a beneficiation plant to produce a vanadium-rich concentrate, which will then get transported 15 km to our downstream processing facility at Tweefontein, which will then produce a vanadium pentoxide flake, which will then go to the steel and VRFB markets.

What is the present state of the vanadium supply and demand?

The demand in terms of vanadium pentoxide equivalent is at about 200 000 t/y at the moment from a mix of primary and secondary sources of vanadium. We'll be in the primary category and analysts are forecasting that demand will grow to about 300 000 t a year of vanadium pentoxide equivalent by about 2033. Our operations are planning to be in production by the end of 2026 and early 2027, so we'll be well placed to meet that growth in vanadium demand from VRFBs in the future.

In what respect is your development strategy green, clean and nature-positive?

We'll have a solar facility and a small VRFB configuration that will be servicing the beneficiation plant and the mine. Once we're in production, we'll be looking to increase the capacity of the solar facility and the VRFB to a point that we could move away from coal-fired grid power. The objective at some point is to become a 100% renewables project. That's a long stretch, but moving more and more away from coal-fired electricity generation is one of our objectives for Steelpoortdrift. Likewise, on the Tweefontein site, our objective in the longer term is to become a vertically integrated operation. We'll have mining, concentrating, and vanadium pentoxide flake production. We’ll then move that circuit to produce vanadium electrolyte, ferrovanadium and other metals associated with what other Bushveld peers can produce. But then also moving into battery manufacturing, whether it's in South Africa or abroad. Ideally, we can build a VRFB manufacturing facility in Steelpoort, but at the end of the day, the objective is to become an energy generator ourselves, where we have a solar plant or a wind facility and we use our vanadium as the source of the VRFB that's used to store the energy generated from the wind and the solar. That's the long-term objective but that's a pathway to becoming more and more green.

It’s so applauding and rewarding to have a secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, which are low cost, so why is VR8 not on the JSE?

It's a topical point. We have been talking about that and whether it makes sense to be on the JSE, given that we'll be potentially getting debt funding out of South Africa in conjunction with other sources from around the globe, and potentially equity funding as well. Regarding the ASX in particular, there are a lot of people who've migrated from South Africa to Australia, and from an institutional investment perspective, there's a bit of negativity around South Africa, so there is some merit in potentially having a JSE listing. It's something that we are looking at. It's not something that we've implemented but it is something that we are considering over the next six to 12 months.

RESOURCE GRADE

VR8’s website reports that the large mineral resource has an average in-situ grade of 0.70% V2O5 (equivalent to 4.74-million tons of contained metal) and a proved and probable ore reserve of 77-million tons at an average in-situ grade of 0.72% V2O5 (equivalent to 0.55-million tons of contained metal).

The idea is for the vanadium-rich concentrate that VR8 intends producing at Steelpoortdrift to be transported to its nearby salt roast leach plant at Tweefontein, where it will be processed to produce an average of 18 000 t/y of V2O5.

At the proposed throughput rates of concentrate for processing at the Tweefontein salt roast leach plant, Steelpoortdrift has capacity to produce the required concentrate for the substantial lifespan, aligning with the company’s commitment to develop sustainably and innovatively.

“We’re heading towards transforming vanadium applications across various sectors, including energy storage, infrastructure development, and more,” the website states.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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