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Norway & its minerals of the future

BY GUNNAR HOLEN NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR / CEO FOR TEØK

Norway has the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, historically thanks to its copious reserves of oil. That has reached its sell-by date, as the environmental impact of fossil fuels becomes more apparent by the day -

and epitomised by an agreement between major oil producers on 12 April to reduce their daily production by 9.7 million barrels. This is the largest cutback in history. Norway’s pension pot may well last a while, but it is divesting from oil and looking for alternative income. The country’s mineral and metal fields have been known about for a few decades now and the Geological Survey of Norway (NGU) has been investigating them, slowly and methodically. Significantly, the NGU believes Norway’s “ilmenite and vanadium in the Bjerkreim-Sokndal intrusion, together, constitute a world-class resource”.

Mining is a nascent industry there and the potential is great. However, commercial organisations that have been interested in what Norway holds under the ground have only ever looked at one entity in isolation. Until now, that is. Norge Mining is able to co-produce valuable minerals and metals simultaneously. I believe that to be a first and it’s giving us an edge. We are investigating in earnest vanadium, phosphorus and titanium and our initial aerial surveying and lab testing has proved more fruitful than we could ever have predicted.

Featured on the European Union’s Critical Raw Materials list, vanadium and phosphorus are key to the economic future of not only Norway, but Europe as a whole. Mineral and metal mining in Norway, therefore, could become its future fortune, and also guarantee a strategic supply to its neighbours – and beyond.

In regards to vanadium, I believe we may be on the precipice of a surge in demand. 2020 could well be the watershed year for Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries (VRFBs), according to some experts – as attention turns to its renewable energy storage potential. In fact, V-flow batteries are likely to become key competitors to existing lithium-ion technology. The current vanadium market is fairly inelastic – involving China, South Africa, Brazil and Russia. I believe the addition of Norway – and Europe – to the mix will be a game changer in terms of supply and will help meet the new demand surge that we may be on the cusp of.

In a nutshell, this is why there’s so much excitement about V-flow batteries: they are non-flammable, compact, reusable over semi-infinite cycles, can discharge 100 percent of the stored energy and do not degrade for more than 20 years. And they can also hold immense amounts of energy. Many believe this makes them a legitimate alternative to lithium-ion – even superior – for large scale storage. It’ll only be a matter of time before innovation allows for a reduction in vanadium battery size. Then we can start talking about their viable role in our electric car revolution.

The general public still believes that lithium is the key to batteries in electric cars and other products. But there’s good reason to believe you’d have better batteries from vanadium and longer durability and less waste challenges. A factory is being built In China for this type of battery – the first of its kind. Lithium has been the big focus, but now vanadium is the new kid on the block – and a better kid! It’s early days and it hasn’t become mainstream knowledge yet.

And that brings me back to Norway and our investigations there. Our tests so far have revealed a greater deposit and higher contents of vanadium than the NGU ever predicted – or could have hoped for. Against the backdrop of the move to more reliance on renewable energy and the new role vanadium may play, it’s clear Norge Mining is investigating metals and minerals of the future.

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