• Neometals locks in Glencore to take vanadium from Swedish slag recovery project
  • Rio Tinto to start work on green hydrogen fuelled alumina refining
  • Materials sector up as iron ore price rises

Neometals (ASX:NMT) has worn a number of coats over its time on the ASX, from gold miner to lithium aspirant and now battery metals recycling vanguardist.

Its most recent transformation helped inspire a move into the ASX mid-tier, peaking at more than $1.50 late last year.

But its performance in 2023 has been less than stellar, with the $280 million capped miner and technologist down almost 37% year to date.

Its investors had something to cheer today, however, sending NMT shares 8.5% higher on a deal to supply vanadium pentoxide sourced from steel slag to Glencore, one of the world’s largest mining and commodity trading houses.

NMT holds a 72.5% interest in Novana Oy alongside a firm called Critical Metals Ltd. Its 100% owned subsidiary Recycling Industries Scandinavia AB owns the vanadium recovery project, where an FID is due by the end of this quarter.

The project would extract high purity vanadium pentoxide for vanadium redox flow batteries from high grade steel slag produced by major Swedish steel producer SSAB.

Glencore will purchase all V2O5 and ferrovanadium produced by Novana for an initial five years after the start of the operation, extending automatically in two year increments, starting from January 1 2026 or earlier.

Prices will be based on prevailing market published pricing, with Glencore also on board to provide technical expertise and advice during the construction of the US$314.4 million, 19.1Mlb per annum project.

“Securing take or pay offtake for 100% of VRP1 vanadium products represents a significant milestone as we progress towards a FID this quarter. Removing volume risk on offtake is seen as a key requirement for securing project finance and we have mitigated this risk with the take or pay nature of our Offtake Agreement with a Tier 1 counterparty in Glencore,” NMT MD Chris Reed said.

“The Offtake Agreement further emphasises the anticipated future need for high purity material in the market.

“This is supported by significant expected demand from the vanadium redox flow battery sector and other potential high purity applications.”


Neometals (ASX:NMT) share price today:


Rio punts on hydrogen to power aluminium smelter

You couldn’t walk down a street in West Perth without hearing some poltergeist whisper the words ‘green hydrogen’ on the wind a couple years ago.

Then it all shifted back to battery metals as lithium prices boomed and the investing world fixated on the EV market above all else.

But major industrial players continue to pursue their green (and blue, and mauve and whatever other colour you want to paint) hydrogen ambitions in the background.

Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) is taking its latest stab on incorporating the new technology into its operations, securing a $32.5 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to help green-light a low-carbon alumina refining trial at its Yarwun plant in Gladstone.

The $111.1 million program in partnership with Japan’s Sumitomo will build a 2.5MW on site electrolyser and retrofit one of the plant’s four calciners (which heat alumina to temperatures of 1000C).

That will allow the calciner to operate at times with a hydrogen burner starting from 2025, producing the equivalent of 6000t of alumina every year and reducing CO2 emissions by around 3000tpa.

The real savings would be made if the plant trial is proven to do what it says on the tin. Converting the whole refinery to green hydrogen could reduce Rio’s emissions by 500,000tpa, the same as taking 109,000 cars off the road.

“This pilot plant is an important step in testing whether hydrogen can replace natural gas in Queensland alumina refineries,” Rio’s aluminium pacific operation MD Armando Torres said.

“At Rio Tinto we have put the energy transition at the heart of our business strategy, and this is one of the ways we’re working towards decarbonising our operations.

“We are proud to be developing this new technology here in Gladstone, in partnership with Sumitomo Corporation, and with support from ARENA.”


Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) share price today:


Iron ore miners lift market

Iron ore is having one of those China stimulus potential bumps, with Singapore Futures up 2.02% this morn to US$107.9/t.

That’s great for the Materials sector, which is dominated by large cap iron ore producers.

The sector rose 1.08%, led by explosives supplier Incitec Pivot (ASX:IPL), with iron ore producers MinRes (ASX:MIN), Fortescue (ASX:FMG), Rio, and BHP (ASX:BHP) all up between 1.5-2.5%.

Coal miners were also well supported, while base metals and met coal producer South32 (ASX:S32), this week moved from neutral to buy by Goldman Sachs, up over 1.5% as well.

That was despite the miner being pinged and ordered to pay almost $3m in penalties for draining drinking water from the Sydney catchment for its Dendrobium coal mine in New South Wales.


Ground Breakers share prices today: