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Niobium: Market Outlook to 2017 (Niobium Goes From Strength to Strength)

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The global niobium market rebounded quickly from the slump in consumption in 2009 and by 2011 demand had returned to near peak levels. Recovery slowed in 2012 but a return to long-term growth is certain. This is a summary of the report Niobium: Market Outlook to 2017 published by Roskill.

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Niobium: Market Outlook to 2017 (Niobium Goes From Strength to Strength)

  1. 1. Niobium goes from strength to strengthThe global niobium market rebounded quickly from the slump in consumption in2009 and by 2011 demand had returned to near peak levels. Recovery slowed in2012 but a return to long-term growth is certain.Niobium is used mainly as an alloying element for certain types of high-strength andstainless steel, where it is added in very small amounts per tonne, but also hasapplications in superalloys for aerospace and land-based power generation and insuperconductors. In most of the market segments, demand is very closely linked tooverall economic trends. In the case of steel, however, a major driver of future demandcould be growth in the intensity of use of niobium. Several countries with large steelindustries have high forecast rates of growth in production, notably China, India andRussia, but have intensities of use for niobium far below the world average and verymuch lower than the mature industrial economies. There is significant potential for anincrease in niobium demand that is well-above the underlying economic trends that willgovern total steel production.Even with the anticipated growth in demand for niobium, there is little risk of supplymoving into deficit. There is currently sufficient production capacity for ferroniobium andother products, such as high-purity niobium oxide, and that capacity will be increasedfurther by the existing producers.Reserves of pyrochlore, the principal niobium mineral, are very large and adequate tosupport current rates of production for many years. The three main producers andconverters of pyrochlore are expanding their capacity for ferroniobium and otherdownstream products and security of supply is highly unlikely to be an issue in theforeseeable future. The non-pyrochlore segment of supply is comparatively small andbased mostly on artisanal or semi-industrial mining in Africa and South America.Although small, this part of primary supply makes up most of the international trade inniobium concentrates and is also a mainstay of the non-steel processing sector.Numerous greenfield niobium projects are in the pipeline. A high proportion aredependent on the market economics for other commodities, such as rare earths, andmost will probably not be commercialised before 2017 and will not be major contributorsto supply.Niobium prices are historically very stable and demand-inelastic. A step increase inprices occurred from the mid-2000s, after which stability was restored. Ferroniobiumprices are expected to remain on a gentle upward trend, with few sharp movements,other than in the spot market, which forms a minor part of the overall market. Prices forother niobium products have and will retain a premium over those of ferroniobium.Niobium: Market Outlook to 2017 (12th edition) has been published and is availableat http://www.roskill.com/niobium.

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