The entire world wants niobium. Olympio Metals knows where to find it

Fri 09 Dec 22, 1:41pm (AEST)
A road stretching to the horizon in the Australian outback beneath a blue sky
Source: Unsplash

Key Points

  • Olympio Metals is going to start exploring for high-value rare earths needed in EV batteries, wind turbines, and other green applications
  • Niobium and magnetic REEs were flagged by a Federal strategy in 2019 to secure domestic supply in Australia
  • Olympio has acquired rights to move to a 90% interest at the Eurelia Project in SA; it has applied for another tenement directly south

Since listing on the ASX back in May, microcap polymetals explorer Olympio Metals (ASX:OLY) has been busy developing its lithium and gold projects in Western Australia. 

Now, the company has its eyes on South Australia, where it has acquired rights to earn up to 90% interest in the Eurelia Project, an exploration play searching for niobium and rare earth elements (REEs). 

The project area is also prospective for high-value magnetic rare earth elements neodymium and praseodymium; along with niobium. 

All three metals are on the upper end of the value spectrum; neodymium and praseodymium in particular are sought after for use in EV vehicles, and wind turbines. All three metals, Olympio notes, are critical minerals insofar as energy transition initiatives are concerned. 

Niobium is different from its magnetic counterparts, however, in that its range of applications is actually more expansive.

What is niobium, anyway? 

Niobium is a magnetic rare earth considered critical not just in Australia but also in the EU, US, Japan, and India. 

Niobium, along with EV batteries, is also used in the aviation industry where it is typically added to propellor blades due to its impeccable resistance to corrosion. For this reason, it us also used as an alloy in the creation of specialised stainless steel. 

Steel with niobium alloy is in turn typically used in aerospace and defence applications, as well as on offshore oil and gas rigs where structural protection against the tempests is quite literally a matter of life or death.

Speaking of life and death, niobium is also used in MRI machines, as well as the too-hard-to-explain world of particle physics. 

Put all those together, and you can see why Olympio is serious about trying its hand in the REE game.

Expanding to the south 

The company is clearly intending to set up its digs (pun intended) at Eurelia, given it has applied for an tenement directly to the south. Niobium and REEs present in the same underlying geology at Eurelia are interpreted to extend in the same direction. 

That tenement will boast what is going to be called the Walloway Project (assuming the Olympio compliance team’s application paperwork ticked all the right boxes.) 

At Walloway, Olympio is targeting a carbonatite formation of the same name, a type of host mineralisation typically coincident with rare earths and niobium. Historical drill tests have intersected niobium at the project, but it largely remains untested by modern equipment. 

Several companies have, in the past, carried out activities on-site. 

Here's the kicker: carbonatite complexes are actually a style of pegmatite mineralisation, which is a type of rock Olympio is familiar with drilling, giving it some level of advantage on the exploration front.

Niobium is typically found alongside tin and tantalum, just like lithium.

Enhancing critical minerals focus: management 

“We are pleased to have secured these assets and look forward to progressing an exploration strategy in the very near future,” Olympio chief Sean Delaney said. 

“We believe both projects are highly prospective for significant niobium and/or REE mineralisation within a fantastic mining jurisdiction in Australia.” 

Delaney reiterated Olympio’s desire to penetrate the critical minerals sector, where growth is expected to grow alongside growing government interest in securing domestic supply chains. 

Canberra released its Federal Critical Minerals Strategy in 2019; the importance of that agenda has only been further rejuvenated by global supply chain disruptions borne from Russia’s stubborn desire to persist with a war with in Ukraine. 

A look at Olympio's six month charts
A look at Olympio's six month charts


Written By

Jonathon Davidson

Finance Writer

Jonathon is a journalism graduate and avid market watcher with exposure to governance, NGO and mining environments. He was most recently hired as an oil and gas specialist for a trade publication.

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