This year’s MMTA International Minor Metals Conference was not only exceptionally well attended, with over 300 delegates, but the speaker programme was also outstanding. New MMTA Chairman Simon Boon of Sovereign International Metals and Alloys opened the conference, reflecting on the MMTA’s successes over the past year and outlining his plans for his 3-year chairmanship.
With their Head Office just down the street, Bombardier were the obvious choice as key note in Montreal, and they didn’t disappoint us! With Montreal hailed as the 3rd global capital of Aerospace after Toulouse and Seattle, the city is particularly attractive for holding a metals conference.
Fassi Kafyeke, Senior Director Strategic Technology & Innovation, examined the age-old question of metals vs. composites in aircraft. He discussed how materials are selected to optimise weight, corrosion resistance and strength, but without dismissing cost and processing difficulties.
Kristof Gabriel of Umicore followed, detailing the company’s closed loop recycling systems with its customers, who then become suppliers at the product end of life. Kristof touched on cobalt, the metal of the moment, and the potential of creating a closed loop system to retrieve cobalt from products that contain the metal, creating a source of material not tied to primary production. Umicore is, however, extremely diverse in the metals it recycles and is always looking for new methods and an increased range of metals that can be retrieved.
Ah Cobalt, what conference would be complete without it? The MMTA conference took a slightly different angle to skywards pointing graphs by inviting Huayou Cobalt. Bryce Lee, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility spoke passionately about his company’s activities to bring transparency and accountability to the cobalt supply chain. Having brought in a 3rd party auditing system as well as liaising with NGOs and industry responsible sourcing initiatives, Huayou are leading in the cobalt CSR arena.
Former MMTA Chairman James Peer, took to the stage with a look at Rhenium and its ‘ever-decreasing prices’. With excess supply, overstocking, recycling and substitution all contributing to its current pricing level, whether this was a short-term slump or a return to a long-term trend was discussed. Rhenium is produced solely as a by-product to molybdenum and copper mining activities and, as such, is vulnerable to changes in production and strategic decisions by companies such as Kennecott, Molymet and Codelco. Opaqueness in the revert market also makes estimates of supply difficult to gauge.
The morning’s speakers were joined by conference veteran speaker Bill Reid from Pratt and Whitney and David Weight of the Cobalt Institute for a panel discussion: ‘Aviation: Time for real blue skies thinking! moderated by former MMTA Chairman Anthony Lipmann. Anthony posed some challenging and intriguing questions to the participants from nuclear power decline to when China will finally produce its own engine. Not forgetting the ultimate ‘blue sky’ question of when electric engines will be seen in the air!
Finishing the first day was a session on ‘Recycling minor metals and alloys’. Zhan Bo Zhang, President of Bomet Recycling based in Canada talked about recovering Ta/Nb from PCBs. Alex Iasnikov of Titan International looked at ‘Recycling of Cobalt and Nickel from Lithium ion batteries’ – a real issue with the predicted growth of the battery market. Stephen Hall, Managing Director, Advanced Alloy Services Ltd then hosted a panel discussion on ‘What is scrap’s vital role in the minor metals supply chain? – what is the future?’ In addition to Bo and Alex, he invited Brian Shine, Chairman-Elect of ISRI and Thomas Dupont of Jean Goldschmidt International to the stage to reflect on the challenges and opportunities for the scrap market. An important issue brought up was ensuring that there were enough new graduates interested in the industry and how to achieve this to ‘future proof’ this essential sector.
Day 2 opened with chickens and eggs, or rather ‘How scandium is creating our brave new world!’ by Karolina Jackiewicz, Trader at Lipmann Walton. Karolina took a fascinating look at this little-known element and how either production needs to increase to provide material for new technology or the technology needs to trigger increased production. Let’s hope scandium can fulfil its potential.
This was followed by “The development of the tantalum industry in China”, by Jiang Bin, VP, Ningxia Orient Tantalum Industry Co Ltd, with a look at the development of the full supply chain of these metals in China, from mine to market.
Nils Backeberg, Analyst at Roskill Information Services Ltd presented “EV raw materials: an electrified demand”.
The final session of the day was ‘Electronics and energy applications.’ ‘China’s global role in the bismuth industry’, by Wu Zuxiang, President, Hunan Jinwang Bismuth Industrial Co Ltd, China. The growth and prominence of this company in bismuth was shown, as well its plans for the future.
Prominent Canadian company, and main sponsor of the conference, 5N Plus, explained to the audience how the company’s recent transformation is allowing it to better serve its customers. Arjang Roshan, the President & CEO presented this ‘new look’ 5N Plus.
“Secondary materials at Teck Trail Operations”, by Tammy Salway, Senior Engineer, Raw Materials, Teck Metals Ltd, was up next. Teck is Canada’s largest diversified resources company with activities in steelmaking coal, zinc, copper and energy amongst others. Tammy not only highlighted the company’s commercial activities but also its well established sustainability policies.
Closing the conference was Donna Vareha-Walsh, Director at Indium Corp on “Indium applications and demand”. Donna looked supply, demand and also at the slow uptake of rival technologies in screen displays, with ITO remaining the favourite choice for manufacturers.
The MMTA and Metal Events would like to thank the sponsors and all the speakers who made this event such a success. We look forward to seeing everyone next year in the beautiful, historic city of Edinburgh, UK at the Sheraton Grand Hotel 9-11 April 2019.