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Surefire banks on METS metrics to enhance vanadium play

Updated: Apr 23

Surefire Resources hopes its Victory Bore vanadium could find its way into redox or flow battery systems for grid storage. Credit: File

Surefire Resources has commissioned METS Engineering to undertake vital metallurgical testwork at its Victory Bore project in Western Australia’s Mid West region to help further its bid to impact Australasia’s emerging vanadium battery sector.

Management hopes the move will boost the project’s value by finding a streamlined separation process to extract vanadium from its magnetite hosts.

Surefire says it is pursuing a low-cost, high-value operation that can capitalise on the relatively clean, intrinsic vanadium found at Victory Bore that might enable a simpler and cleaner separation process. The company’s goal is to produce high-purity vanadium oxide in liquid form from which clean high-purity vanadium electrolyte can be recovered for the developing vanadium battery market.

Management says Perth-based METS was selected to conduct the study because of its depth of advanced metallurgical experience in assessing WA vanadium deposits and new extraction processes.

METS’ work will be conducted in parallel with a separate study Surefire has commissioned from Lava Blue on the potential to produce high-purity alumina (HPA) from the waste and host rock at Victory Bore.

The company believes that if Lava Blue’s study concludes HPA production is possible, then the incorporation of an HPA commodity stream, in addition to a vanadium commodity stream, could add considerable value to Victory Bore’s economics.

This could be an exciting new pathway for our world-class vanadium deposit at Victory Bore. With more focus from financiers and partners on good ESG credentials the company’s strategy in looking to add value by exploring the streamlining of vanadium recovery by focusing on the battery market whilst also exploring the recovery of HPA makes sound environmental and commercial sense. Surefire Resources managing director Paul Burton

The company’s results from both the METS and Lava Blue studies could find their way into the pre-feasibility study, which is currently underway.

Victory Bore is located 400km to the east of Geraldton and is already an impressive project in many ways – particularly because of the size of its vanadium resource.

Earlier this year, Surefire upped its resource by more than 50 per cent to 235 million tonnes at 0.39 per cent vanadium pentoxide. Scanning electron microscope assessment showed spot grade vanadium within the magnetite ranges from 1.8 per cent to 3.9 per cent vanadium pentoxide.

The deposit is part of the company’s bigger Victory Bore-Unaly Hill vanadium project that takes in the Unaly Hill resource to the south-west. The total resource for both deposits now totals 321 million tonnes at 0.39 per cent vanadium pentoxide and there is room for even greater resource expansion considering Surefire has probed only 1.4 kilometres of an untested 8km-long banded iron formation at the site.

Vanadium is found in magnetite, but in Russia and China, which accounts for about two-thirds of world production, it is also extracted from steel smelter slag. It is used mostly in the steel industry, but also in alloys needed for building jet aircraft engines and teeth implants.

More recently, vanadium has found a need in the burgeoning green-energy sector – namely, in energy grid storage. Vanadium batteries, sometimes called vanadium redox or flow batteries, have received far less attention and recognition than lithium-ion batteries but their supporters argue they represent the future when it comes to large-scale grid energy storage.

Grid energy storage is particularly important for employing green-energy applications such as solar or wind power to stabilise the grid on cloudy or windless days.

Vanadium redox batteries use vanadium ions as the charge carriers. They are touted as safer than lithium-ion batteries because the vanadium electrolyte boasts a more stable chemistry than lithium cells, have a long life and suffer little or no capacity degradation. They also have a 100 per cent discharge capability and are price-competitive with lithium.

With the world looking for green-energy alternatives to fossil fuels and alternative supplies to China for many critical mineral and rare earths, Surefire is in the box seat to take advantage. If the studies indicate that the metallurgy and economics do indeed add up, the company might well get two bites of the apple at Victory Bore-Unaly Hill.

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