This transition metal has far more uses than its traditional role in the high-strength, low-alloy steel (HLSA) found in superconducting magnets, rockets, turbines, and medical instruments.

These days, niobium – often confused and misinterpreted as part of the rare earths family – has been gaining popularity for its ability to cut charging times and fire risks in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

Experts believe its use case as a substitute for cobalt in lithium-ion batteries is showing promise in the form of oxides for both cathode and anode production in high-power, long-life, safer, and ultra-fast charging batteries.

The world’s largest supplier of niobium products, Brazil’s CBMM, is spearheading this space with plans to invest US$80m in expanding its niobium oxide production capacity to 40,000mt/year by 2030 from 10,000mt/year.

Ferroniobium (an alloy of iron and niobium) is CBMM’s main production and sales area but by 2030, it hopes to see 25% of its revenue coming from non-steel products as part of its diversification strategy.

Various partnerships with Chinese tech companies have been made to help CBMM reach its goal and a US$3m pilot plant is under construction at the Araxa mine in Minas Gerais state, southeast Brazil, to produce niobium oxide specifically for battery applications.

According to CBMM CEO Ricardo Lima, 41 projects focused on batteries for electric vehicles are in development. Two of them, one with Japan’s Toshiba and another with Volkswagen Trucks and Buses, are already in the advanced testing phase.


Who’s chasing niobium on the ASX?

The biggest niobium story on the ASX right now is WA1 Resources (ASX:WA1) whose share price hit a record $6.09/sh in early trade last month on more thick high grade niobium drill results at Luni, part of the West Arunta project in WA.

That’s a consistent 4400% gain since making the neighbouring P2 discovery in October last year.

New drill highlights include 10m at 8.3% Nb2O5 within an overall interval from 78m of 42m at 2.7% Nb2O5 and shallow, high-grade niobium mineralisation is now evident over a 1km extent.

And early-stage mineralogy indicates the niobium can be liberated easily from the ore.

“These latest assay results now demonstrate that Luni has a large and extremely high-grade niobium footprint, which we are working to extend further,” WA1 managing director Paul Savich says.

But WA1 is by no means the only ASX explorer looking to snatch up a piece of the niobium pie.


These guys got niobium too


This $5.79m market cap explorer hit the bourse in June 2022 focused on copper-gold projects in Queensland but has since pivoted to rare earths and niobium following an 80% acquisition in the Schryburt Lake REE-Nb Project in northern Ontario, Canada.

Made up of 318 mining claims across ~62.4km2, the project lies within the highly prospective Western Superior Province region that is also home to major advanced REE projects including Hecla-Kilmer (TSX:VVR), Clay-Howells (TSX:LL) and Montviel (TSX:GMA).

Reprocessed magnetics confirmed four high priority drill targets that have never been explored and contain similar characteristics to well-known carbonatite-hosted REE deposits in Eastern Canada such as Magris Resources’ Niobec deposit – the largest REE and niobium deposit in Canada.

Carbonatites are associated with economic deposits of metals like REEs and niobium.

BIM is keen to quickly launch into exploration this summer and get the results its needs to prove the project up.



Reach Resources’ Wabli Creek niobium-REE project has reeled in impressive results from surface eluvial and rock samples lately, including grades of up to 10.3% Nb2O5 and 2.6% Nb2O5.

These samples were taken up to 400m east of the previously mapped northwest pegmatite trend spanning ~1.5km, which returned results up to 14.3% Nb2O5, 6.7% Ta2O5, 3689ppm TREO.

RR1 CEO Jeremy Bower says the results could indicate an additional source of mineralisation.

A team has now been mobilised to conduct an ATV assisted grid sampling program to understand the potential for more niobium/REE pegmatites.



Olympio is exploring for REEs and niobium at the Eurelia project in South Australia where recent aircore drilling returned widespread mineralisation over a 10km strike.

Anomalous niobium grades, including a 2m intersection of 1,267ppm Nb2O3, are believed to be associated with an emerging large scale alkaline intrusive system which includes the Walloway and Yanyarrie carbonatites.

The recent grant of the Walloway Project tenement has allowed the company to carry out exploration work which will involve more drilling at Walloway, flying a detailed aeromagnetic survey over the southern portion, and drilling any carbonatite targets identified by the survey.



This ASX newcomer has kicked off a 5,000m combined RC and diamond drilling program at the Machinga REE-niobium project in Malawi.

The program aims to follow-up 2010 drill results which included 11m at 1% TREO from 12m and 5m at 1.5% TREO from 26m.

A 200m by 50m soil sampling program has been completed to the north of known mineralisation at the Machinga North prospect to extend mineralisation for follow-up drill testing.



Encounter Resources has identified carbonatites over 3.5km of strike at the Aileron project, right next door to WA1 Resources’ (ASX:WA1) company-making Luni niobium-REE discovery in the West Arunta of WA, an emerging critical minerals province.

ENR managing director Will Robinson says the first hole at Aileron, EAL001, was targeting a high amplitude magnetic anomaly, which it successfully intersected, before also intersecting a niobium-REE bearing primary carbonatite dyke.

“Systematically testing the Elephant Island Fault for further zones of near surface, enriched mineralisation is a priority objective for the upcoming RC program in August,” he explains.



Over 500m of REE mineralisation has been identified from the first diamond hole at MTM Critical Metals’ Pomme rare earths-niobium project in Quebec, Canada.

The first of 10 diamond holes being drilled, POM-23-01 was completed 558m downhole and collared ~100m north of a historical drillhole that intersected in excess of 500m of REE-niobium mineralisation.

MTM managing director Lachlan Reynolds said the first hole results were a vindication of the team’s confidence that this drilling campaign at the Pomme project could have potential for making a major new rare earths elements and niobium deposit discovery.



Cufe picked up promising niobium tenure smack bang in the middle of the West Arunta region earlier this week, which is emerging as a sought-after exploration location following the success of WA1 and ENR.

Magnetic targets have been identified at tenement E80/5925, which the company says holds potential for REE-carbonatite mineralisation.

The tenement covers an area of 48km2 and has not been explored for REEs, CUF says.

The initial focus of activities on E80/5925 will be desktop studies while progressing the tenure and obtaining permission to explore.



Voltaic has uncovered REE enriched clays at the Neo prospect within the wider Paddy’s Well project that are highly amenable to upstream beneficiation.

Recent ‘size by assay’ analysis work found up to 94% of the valuable magnetic (neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium) REE mass can be recovered in the -20µm size fraction, whilst removing ~40% of the total mass as waste.

This is a major step forward in the economic viability of a REE project at Neo.

No further clay-focused drilling is planned until the leaching results are known, which Voltaic believes is the most prudent use of capital going forward.

Concurrently, exploration is continuing focusing on several primary carbonatite REE & niobium targets within Paddys Well.

Niobium stocks share prices today:



At Stockhead we tell it like it is. While Bindi Metals, Reach Resources, DY6 Metals, Encounter Resources, MTM Critical Metals, CuFe, and Voltaic Strategic Resources are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.