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The second largest niobium deposit on the planet is discovered in the Amazon, which is worth more than all the Pre-Salt oil: capable of producing 2,9 billion tons, the reserve promises to revolutionize mining in the world

Written by Flavia Marinho
Published 29/05/2024 às 09:48
niobium - mining - reserve - ore - deposits - rare earths - mineral - metals - amazon - industry - technology
Brazil has the largest niobium reserves on the planet: they are estimated at 842 billion tons, with the largest deposits concentrated in the states of Minas Gerais (75% of the total), Amazonas (21%) and Goiás (3%).

Brazil has the largest niobium reserves on the planet: they are estimated at 842 billion tons, with the largest deposits concentrated in the states of Minas Gerais (75% of the total), Amazonas (21%) and Goiás (3%).

Mining revolution is in the Amazon! One rare ore on the planet, but found in abundance in Brazil, is seen as essential to the high-tech industry and has experienced growth in demand in recent years. This metal has generated controversies and a series of suspicions, in addition to conflicting information that spreads on the internet, encouraging conspiracy theories and myths about its real importance for the global economy and its potential to increase Brazil's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is niobium, a chemical element used as an alloy in the production of special steels and one of the metals most resistant to corrosion and extreme temperatures.

Although the mineral is found in the soil of several countries, 98% of the world's known reserves are located in Brazil. Currently, the country is responsible for more than 90% of niobium traded globally, followed by Canada and Australia. In Brazil, reserves are estimated at 842 billion tons, with the largest deposits concentrated in the states of Minas Gerais (75% of the total), Amazônia (21%) and Goiás (3%).

According to the National Mining Plan 2030 report, Brazil currently explores 55 mineral substances, being responsible for more than 4% of world production. The country is a global leader in niobium production alone. In the case of other minerals in which Brazil also stands out, such as iron and manganese, the share in global production does not exceed 20%.

They covet niobium from the Amazon, one of the largest reserves in the world!

It is in the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, in Amazonas, that one of the largest niobium deposits in the world is found. In the Amazon rainforest, the territory lies between Brazil's borders with Venezuela and Colombia. In addition to niobium, it is worth mentioning that the Amazon contains a great diversity of minerals, the most precious of which include gold, diamonds, tantalite and cassiterite.

Even though the total ore estimated in the reserve is around 2,9 billion tons of niobium, the second largest on the planet, the area cannot be explored due to it being located in indigenous territory and within the environmental protection areas of the National Park of Pico da Neblina and the Morro dos Seis Lagos State Biological Reserve.

In addition to the Amazon, another large and main niobium reserve in operation in the world is in the city of Araxá, in the Triângulo Mineiro and Alto Paranaíba region. In Araxá alone, reserves are estimated at more than 800 billion tons of ore, a volume sufficient to guarantee more than 100 years of production, subject to current demand. But if mining deposits in underground rocks are considered, the exploration capacity is estimated at more than 400 years.

Currently, the niobium that is produced in Minas Gerais by CBMM is exported to more than 50 countries, with greater potential to serve steel companies. In 2022, niobium production in Brazil generated revenues of more than R$137 million, consolidating the country as the world's largest producer of this mineral.

According to the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Brazil has a niobium processing chain, which allows the export and internal use of by-products resulting from extraction. Information from the private sector indicates that this production chain generates more than 7 thousand direct jobs in the national territory.

The National Mining Plan 2050 predicts that niobium production will reach 171,7 thousand tons by the year 2050, being crucial to boosting the Brazilian economy. “These projections highlight the relevance of mining for the development of Brazil and the growth of mining regions,” stated the Ministry in an official statement.

Exploitation of precious minerals in indigenous areas

According to the manager of Geology and Mineral Resources at CPRM-AM, Marcelo Almeida, even carrying out research in indigenous territories needs to be authorized. He reports that the indigenous people themselves mine reserves in the Amazon, despite the fact that the practice is considered illegal.

It is in the Amazon forest in indigenous territories that the most precious ores are found, such as gold and diamond located in the West of Roraima; in the Upper Rio Negro where gold and tantalite are concentrated; in the south of Amazonas, on the Preto stream there is cassiterite. “Occasionally, the reserve area located on the Preto creek is retaken by miners.

For mineral exploration to be legalized, it is necessary to issue environmental impact reports and obtain environmental and research licenses, among other documents; in addition to paying taxes.

Almeida defends the legalization of mineral extraction in indigenous lands, since the institution of organized companies can be the way out against the proliferation of illegal mining. “From the moment the Indian is acculturated and needs to use financial resources to cover his expenses

For him, “it's better to have mining that is controlled, that will generate jobs and collect taxes. In addition to being charged for environmental damage that is caused”.

use of niobium

It looks like magic. You throw a handful of niobium, just 100 grams, into the middle of a ton of steel – and the alloy becomes much stronger and more malleable. Cars, bridges, airplane engines, magnetic resonance imaging devices, missiles, pacemakers, nuclear power plants, space probe sensors... practically everything that is electronic, or uses steel, is better with a little niobium. The rockets from the American company SpaceX, the most advanced in the world, use niobium.

The LHC, the largest particle accelerator on the planet, and the D-Wave, the first quantum computer, too. Everyone wants niobium – and almost all of the world's reserves of this metal, 98,2%, are in Brazil. We have the equivalent of 842 million tons of niobium, which is worth an incredible US$22 trillion: double China's GDP, or twice all the pre-salt oil. Therefore, there are those who say that niobium could be Brazil's salvation, the key for the country to develop and become a global power.

I would love to know if you already knew about niobium and knew that Brazil is the largest producer and exporter of this ore. Let us know in the comments section constructively what you think about this. Don't forget to leave 5 stars and activate CPG notifications to keep up with all the news in the world of mining. To the next!

Flavia Marinho

Flavia Marinho is a Production Engineer with a postgraduate degree in Electrical and Automation Engineering, with extensive experience in the onshore and offshore shipbuilding industry. In recent years, she has dedicated herself to writing articles for news websites in the areas of industry, oil and gas, energy, shipbuilding, geopolitics, jobs and courses, with more than 7 thousand articles published. Contact us to suggest an agenda, advertise job vacancies or advertise on our portal.

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