Each different in color, they were all the color of money. And, for the company Radvak leads, American Vanadium, the stones are a small representative of the massive amounts of minerals his company plans to mine from the outlying hills.
“There is high quality at this site like nowhere else in the world,” Radvack said. “Nature has done a remarkable part of the work for us.”
To date, only three places in the world — Russia, China, South Africa — produce a significant amount of vanadium. Now, Nevada is on the brink of becoming the fourth major supplier.
The Canadian-based company projects the Nevada mine will output 6,000 metric tons annually. The mine will have the capacity to produce 14 million pounds of vanadium pentoxide. This equates to one-quarter of U.S. needs for vanadium, half of the needs for North America and 4 to 5 percent of the world’s usage.
If realized, Nevada is on the brink of becoming one of the world’s most important producers of one of the most valuable commodities of the 21st century. The company will produce vanadium electrolyte for green energy applications and vanadium pentoxide for the steel industry. Vanadium is vitally needed by the renewable energy, steel and construction sectors.
American Vanadium also plans to invest an estimated $95 million in the mine. A feasibility study completed by AMEC E&C Services, Inc. of Sparks has reportedly predicted an after-tax cash flow of nearly $276 million, an internal rate of return of 43 percent, net present value of $170.1 million at a 7 percent discount rate, and a 2.4 year payback on investment from start-up.
Construction is expected to take nine months after permitting is complete, which should be in a couple of years, Radvack said. Locally, Eureka county should expect to see an additional 80-120 jobs created.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, who recently released an economic development plan for the state, could not be reached about the mine after several attempts seeking comment. His press secretary said that the governor had information about the mine, as does his economic development office. Sen. Dean Heller’s representative did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Radvack said the Governor’s Office had not reached out to American Vanadium and the company was not receiving any incentives.
The company expected to see positive cash flow within six months after production starts. Within 2.25 years they estimate they will pay back their investment cost.
Vanadium’s major use is in energy storage. Vanadium is a valuable supercharger for lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles. by 2020, JD Power expects 4.48 million passenger vehicles will be fully battery operated.
According to American Vanadium, batteries that will rely on their product will provide grid-level electricity storage and will provide a solution to the problem in clean energy production of storage for the electricity generated by wind and solar power.
However, the most essential use for vanadium across the world, and especially in China, is for strengthening steel. By adding .1 to .2 percent of vanadium to steel, a structure’s strength, is increased by 50 percent without losing its integrity, Radvack said. In China, by far the largest consumer of vanadium, new regulations will required the country to increase the use of vanadium by 40 percent.
The use of the vanadium because of these new regulations and the increase across the world will mean countries will use less iron ore, less energy and fewer steel mills will be required.
The Gibellini Project’s 3.397-acre site is located 25 miles south of the town of Eureka. Natural topography at the site provides for excellent conditions to mine vanadium easily, said chief geologist Lonny Hafen. The production of vanadium will require virtually no stripping.
“There is a very unique ore body exposed at the surface,” Hafen said.
“Our goal is the be the greenest mine in America,” Radvack said. “We are in discussion to be the provider of wind solar power to the community.
Gibellini Project’s location is situated next to a stream. Because the vanadium is hosted in shale that has been thrusted up from deep ocean waters, it is easy to pluck from the earth. It is pre-crushed ore.
“It’s all over the mountain,” Radvack said, as he picked at it during the snow storm during a tour with reporters from around the globe Thursday.
Once the vegetation is removed, the rock will be broken up, removed with a bulldozer and crushed. A heap-leach method will be used, but not similar to gold mining. Instead of cyanide, the company will use sulfuric acid to strip vanadium from the rock to remove the vanadium.
“About 18.4 tons will end up on the heap,” Radvack said.
The unique geology allows the company to produce two clean products on site: vanadium pentoxide plate for the steel industry and vanadium electrolyte for mass storage batteries.
“It truly is a green metal,” Radvack said.
National security has also found a need for vanadium. The technology developed in Nevada may achieve those objectives, Radvack said. Other uses include Aerospace and defense industry. Titanium vanadium alloys required for aircraft, missiles, personnel transports and other uses. Chemicals and pollution control requirements for production of synthetic rubber, polyester, fibreglass, sulfuric acid and other products. And, energy storage needs vanadium for grid scale vanadium flow battery and lithium vanadium batteries for electric vehicles.
“We will be the only primary producer in U.S,” Radvack said. “The project could not have come at a better time. It’s a great time to be in the vanadium business.”
To find out more about the American Vanadium project, visit www.americanvanadium.com.