A record number of delegates joined the MMTA in Dublin for the International Minor Metals Conference last month. An outstanding programme of speakers and a warm, convivial atmosphere made the premier event of the minor metals calendar particularly impressive this year.
Kicking off the day in the Keynote spot, Andrea Sella from UCL and Laurence Knight from BBC World guided the audience through “An amazing journey among the elements”. Garnering audience participation and performing onstage experiments, the duo took a slightly different view of a selection of elements including tantalum, vanadium and platinum.
Continuing proceedings, the first session focused on developments in specialty metals, beginning with “Developments in aero-engines and material choice”, by Bill Reid, Strategic Sourcing Manager of Pratt & Whitney. Bill spoke about the positive outlook on future aircraft orders and the materials required to support these orders, as well as materials selection for efficiency and durability in engines.
“Arconic’s position in the minor metals world”, by Ben Franck, Director, Commercial Metals Procurement at Arconic (the new name of the engineered products business of the former Alcoa) looked at global mega trends such as urbanisation, the rising middle class and energy efficiency, and their influence on Arconic’s future business in aerospace and automotive.
Markus Moll (SMR) provided “an update on specialty and stainless markets”, giving an engaging look at market trends. Markus predicts a price rise for molybdenum during 2017.
Former MMTA Chairman, Guy Darby (Darton Commodities), gave a brief report on developments in Mufulira, the MMTA’s chosen charity. Guy talked about the medical electives programme, the MMTA Member funded anaesthetic machine in the local hospital, future plans to help send more medical students to Zambia, and, hopefully, some Zambian medical students to undertake an elective in the UK.
The tantalum and supply chain session opened with a fascinating insight into INTEL’s supply chain and the work they have done over the years to map and trace their material supplies and guarantee a ‘conflict-free’ microprocessor. Carolyn Duran, Director, Global Supply Management, talked about the efforts to ensure conflict free tantalum smel-ters and the challenges that we all face to broaden the scope of responsible supply to include new criteria such as child labour and envi-ronment, as well as to all materials and not just the 3Ts and gold.
Yuri Freeman, Director of Advanced Research, Kemet Electronics Corp, continued proceedings with a look at the development of tantalum capacitors, the key to a myriad of modern technologies and enabling the digital revolution.
The first day concluded with topical discussion groups on ‘Rhenium, Hafnium, Zirconium’, ‘Supply Chain Issues’,’ and Battery Metals Outlook for Lithium and Cobalt’. These groups were attended by around 100 delegates, with discussions held between participants over a pint of Guinness or two!
The second day opened with the topical issue of ‘Batteries and storage’. Andy Miller, from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, kicked things off with “The Lithium ion battery mega factories: Lithium, graphite and cobalt impact”. Andy believes that China will be the driver for raw materials to fuel the lithium ion expansion. Rebecca Gordon of CRU Consulting looked at sources of raw materials for batteries and stressed that cobalt demand could not be met without supplies from the DRC.
“Outlook for antimony”, by Geert Krekel, Managing Director of Campine, started the session on “Electronics metals: the future is bright”. Geert looked at factors affecting the antimony market, such as technical performance, regulation and security of supply.
“Future applications for minor metals: Bi, In, Se, Ge & Ga”, by Dominic Boyle of Fortis Metals, offered a high level overview of new applications for these metals, including developments in wrap-around TV screens, solar panels, 5G mobile networks and 2D materials. The session ended with “China’s industry development and market demand for gallium, selenium and tellurium”, by Feng Juncong, from the CNIA (Chinese non-ferrous industry association), who offered a view of future metals demand from a Chinese perspective.
Finishing up the programme, the speakers looked at new material opportunities. “Rhenium – the role of a transition metal in a precious metals world”, by Michael Arndt, of Heraeus Deutschland GmbH, examined the rise of rhenium and its applications in super alloys, space, medical and the petrochemical industry. Michael also discussed the key criteria when managing rhenium supply and suppliers.
Oleg Anikin, Investment Director ICT Group of Companies & Board member of TriArk Mining LLC wrapped up the Conference with “Tomtor — an alternative source of supply for scandium and niobium”. Oleg looked at TriArk’s new mine in the North of Yakutia, Russia. This is a huge deposit and very rich; as of April 2017, an average ton of ore contained about 3,000 USD worth of niobium and REO (not accounting for Sc and other potential by-products). The mine is set to open in 2019, and the value of the ore makes the logistical and climate issues worth overcoming.
The MMTA would like to thank our excellent line-up of speakers, as well as the generous sponsors of the conference. We were delighted to welcome back returning delegates and meet many new ones. We look forward to welcoming you to Montreal, Canada next year.