Aim-listed integrated primary vanadium producer and energy storage solutions provider Bushveld Minerals produced 688 t of vanadium in the first quarter.
This was lower than the 880 t produced in the corresponding period of 2020 as a result of a 35-day planned maintenance shutdown at Vametco.
Bushveld successfully completed the maintenance on time and within budget during the quarter.
The company’s primary vanadium processing and beneficiation plant, Vanchem, produced 34% more materials at 293 t, during the period under review – a 12% increase on the production of the fourth quarter of 2020.
Vanchem’s increased production was the result of improved operational stability.
As for sales, Bushveld experienced a dip, from 1 080 t in the first quarter of 2020, to 788 t in the period under review, which was a result of the Vametco shutdown.
As such, Bushveld expects its full-year production to be at the lower end of guidance of between 4 100 t and 4 350 t of vanadium.
However, the miner notes that risks to this guidance exist as a consequence of Vametco’s challenges in achieving consistent plant performance, the slower-than-expected ramp-up following the maintenance shutdown, recent industrial action, as well as risks associated with the ramp-up of Vanchem’s first phase refurbishment.
Bushveld Minerals CEO Fortune Mojapelo says that, although group production was lower in the first quarter than in the first and last quarters of 2020, Bushveld was able to carry out the previously guided essential maintenance at Vametco, while Vanchem experienced a solid quarter of production.
“We recognise that Vametco has underperformed at times and work such as the 35-day maintenance shutdown is expected to improve the reliability and performance issues experienced in the past.
“Since the industrial action and ramp-up, we have seen a stable period of normalised production levels. Various workstreams remain under way to maintain this stability, including [increasing] safety and house-keeping initiatives, better managing process system constraints and [advancing] preventive maintenance programmes.”
OUTLOOK & FUTURE
Meanwhile, Bushveld reports that the procurement phase of the Bushveld Electrolyte Plant has commenced, with commissioning expected in the second half of 2022.
In terms of market factors, Bushveld notes that vanadium prices continued to increase during the first quarter, after a strong start to the year. Prices had risen in China in the midst of the Spring Festival, while in Europe, prices increased owing to strong demand and tight inventories.
In addition, the miner notes that lengthening of the supply chain/logistics disruptions is supporting prices.
Bushveld also highlights that vanadium demand remains robust and that prices are expected to remain stable for the remainder of the second quarter.
During the first quarter, the London Metal Bulletin’s (LBM's) ferrovanadium price averaged $30.90/kg of vanadium, up from the $26.50/kg of the first quarter of 2020.
The current market price for LMB ferrovanadium is about $32/kg of vanadium.
On a positive note, Mojapelo says the vanadium price has continued to rise following a strong start to the year with increased demand in Europe and the US on the back of a post-Covid-19 period of growth.
“As the world continues to open up, we have confidence in the demand side of the vanadium market.”