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MINERALS - METALS

BRAZILIAN NIOBIO

 

 

 

 

From the middle of the 20th century, geologist Djalma Guimarães discovered the largest pyrochloric mine in the region of Barreiro, in Araxá - Minas Gerais, from which the largest niobium mine found to date on Planet Earth was discovered. Simultaneously, there was the development of space races in the United States and Russia, which expanded exponentially in the niobium consumption by the aerospace industry.

In 1955, CBMM began its industrial operations. In 1965, American Admiral Arthur Radford persuaded banker Walther Moreira Salles to invest in the niobium market, which is currently the world's largest producer. Currently, Brazil has three companies in the niobium exploration sector, namely: Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineração (CBMM), Anglo American Brasil Ltda. (Mineração Catalão Goiás), and Mineração Taboca (Paranapanema Group).

The niobium, chemical symbol Nb, atomic number 41, density 8.57 kg / dm3, is transition belonging to group 5 of the periodic table of elements. It is a glossy material, with bright gray, ductile coloration and a paramagnetic metal. It is mainly used in steel alloys for the production of fluid conducting tubes. Under normal conditions, it is solid.

Niobium has similar physical and chemical properties to that of the tantalum chemical element, and the two are therefore difficult to distinguish. In 1801, the English chemist Charles Hatchett reported the discovery of a material similar to tantalum and denominated it colúmbio. Between 1864 and 1865, it became clear that "niobium" and "colúmbio" were two names of the same element.
For almost a century these names were used interchangeably. Niobium was officially recognized as a chemical element in 1949, but the term colundium is still used in metallurgy. The first commercial applications of this element date back to the beginning of the 20th century. There are few economically feasible niobium mines.

Brazil accounts for 98% of the world's known niobium reserves, 842.46 million tons, historically the world's largest producer of niobium and ferroniobium (a niobium and iron alloy) and accounts for 75% of the world's production of niobium. It is estimated that niobium is the 33rd most abundant element on Earth, with a concentration of 20 ppm.

Some researchers say that the abundance of niobium on the planet is much greater, but it is not possible to find more sources of the elements because it is in the terrestrial nucleus because of its high density. The production of special steels uses this metal. Although these alloys contain at most 0.1% niobium, this small percentage gives a high mechanical strength to the steel.

The thermal stability of superalloys containing niobium is important for the production of aircraft engines, rocket propulsion and various superconducting materials. Type II superconducting alloys, also containing titanium and tin, are generally used in the superconducting magnets used to obtain magnetic resonance imaging. Other applications include welding, the nuclear industry, electronics, optics, numismatics and jewelry production. In these latter two applications it is used for its low toxicity and the possibility of anodizing staining.

 

 

In Minas Gerais there are the largest Brazilian reserves of pyrochlore. The ferroniobio alloy is produced through a joint venture company, whose Economic Development Company of Minas Gerais (Codemig). The WikiLeaks website released in 2010 confidential documents listing a list of vital locations to the United States in other countries.

The document sent by the State Department lists undersea cables with connections in Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro and iron ore, manganese and niobium mines in Minas Gerais and Goiás. Niobium is used in superalloys and in the manufacture of magnetos for magnetic resonance imaging. It included mines and niobium deposits in Brazil as strategic resources and infrastructure essential to the United States, in which the C-103 was developed in the early 1960s by the Wah Chang Corporation and Boeing.

Some Brazilian universities, such as USP, UNESP and UFRJ, investigate the characteristics of niobium in order to develop technologies in the superconducting sector, in the generation and transmission of electric energy, in the Brazilian aerospace area, in the transportation system and in mining, being widely used in the construction of chemical, mechanical, aeronautical, biomedical and nuclear equipment.

 

 

 

 

BRAZILIAN GOLD

 

 

The appreciation of the gold prices observed since 2001 (tab. 1) attracted a great interest in the investment in mineral research and in new projects of this precious metal for Brazil. In September 2009, the gold ounce reached a record nominal price of $ 1,895 (in 2001, the lowest price was about $ 256). Here, several companies have adopted successful strategies for the merger and / or acquisition of deactivated mines or mining titles, notably Yamana Gold, Kinross, Jaguar Mining and Luna Gold, which today has several projects in the production phase. The gold mining industry was heavily burdened by low prices, with several mines with negative margins between 1997 and 2001, leading to the closure of its production worldwide.

In 2001 gold production in Brazil was 51,867 kilos, dropping to 41,154 kilos in 2005 and reaching 66,732 kilos in 2012. During that same period, annual exports of gold went from US $ 227 million to US $ 2,664 million dollars.

In the 1980s, the Cuiabá, Jacobina and Serra Grande (AngloGold) and Rio Paracatu Mineração (now Kinross) mines began, accounting for a significant percentage of the current industrial gold production in Brazil. Mining of smaller gold mines can be a very strong trend in the coming years for Brazil.

In the 1990s we had the incursion of Vale (formerly CVRD) into gold mining, where it maintained its main assets until 2003. Vale was positioned in that decade as the largest gold mining company in Brazil. With the drop in metal prices, the exhaustion of some mines and a change in its market strategy, Vale was abandoning this sector. Now, with the operation of the Sossego and Salobo (PA) mines, it again produces gold as a byproduct of copper mining. When all of Vale's current copper projects are operating in Pará, a total gold production of around 18 to 20 tons per year is estimated, which may once again raise the company to the position of being the largest Brazilian producer of the substance.

 

From 2003, Yamana began its trajectory in Brazil by acquiring a series of assets from Santa Elina Mineração: Fazenda Nova, São Vicente, São Francisco and Chapada. It also acquired the "Fazenda Brasileiro" mine from Vale in Bahia and, later, the Desert Sun (in 2006), in Jacobina, in the same state. The Jacobina mine had been reactivated by Willians Resources, which sold it to the Forbes & Manhattan group called "Desert Sun Mining."

AngloGold maintained the activities of the Grande e Velha mines, which were in industrial operation since 1834, in Nova Lima (MG), until 2002/03. The focus became the Cuiabá Mine. Kinross invested from 2002/2003 in its production unit in Paracatu (MG), launching a bold expansion program that increased production and gold reserves. Mundo Mineração carried out gold mining activities between 2008 and 2011/12, continuing an open-pit mining that was of Anglo and started to be developed as underground mining.

In the first decade of this millennium, several mines were completed: Sertão (Troy Resources - GO), Fazenda Nova (Yamana - GO), Sabará (Jaguar - MG) and São Bento (Eldorado Gold - MG). Mineração Pedra Branca do Amapari / AP, started in 2006, suspended its activities in 2009 and was reactivated only in 2012/13, after its acquisition by Beadell Resources as "Tucano Project". Beadell will also produce iron ore (about 500,000 tonnes per year, 65% Fe content) as a by-product, with a reduction of around US $ 100 / oz in the cost of gold production estimated. Serabi Gold produced gold in Para (Mina Palito) between 2006 and 2010 and plans to reactivate it until 2014/15. Mining of smaller gold mines can be a very strong trend in the coming years for Brazil.