This Article is From Oct 12, 2023

China's Geologists Unearth Valuable Niobium Ore In Inner Mongolia

Scientists say that the newly discovered ore containing the rare metal niobium could revolutionize battery innovation.

China's Geologists Unearth Valuable Niobium Ore In Inner Mongolia

Niobium can be used to make game-changing batteries.

In a groundbreaking revelation, Chinese geologists have uncovered a novel ore within the world's largest rare earth deposit, offering the potential to transform the nation's battery technology sector. This remarkable discovery showcases niobium, a metal renowned for its superconducting properties and highly regarded in the steel industry for its exceptional strength.

According to the South China Morning Post, the niobium ore, dubbed niobobaotite, has received an official approval number from the International Mineralogical Association's classification committee, according to the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). The niobobaotite, which was discovered at the Bayan Obo ore deposit in the city of Baotou in Inner Mongolia, is a brown-black ore made up of niobium, barium, titanium, iron, and chloride.

According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, niobium is used in alloys, including stainless steel. It improves the strength of the alloys, particularly at low temperatures. Alloys containing niobium are used in jet engines and rockets, beams and girders for buildings and oil rigs, and oil and gas pipelines. This element also has superconducting properties. It is used in superconducting magnets for particle accelerators, MRI scanners, and NMR equipment. Niobium oxide compounds are added to glass to increase the refractive index, which allows corrective glasses to be made with thinner lenses.

According to The Independent, the primary source of niobium, until now, has been the ore mineral columbite, which is extracted extensively in Canada, Brazil, Australia, and Nigeria. China has been heavily dependent on imports to acquire nearly 95 percent of this element for its steel industry.

Antonio H Castro Neto, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the National University of Singapore, told the Post that the "discovery is significant for China since most of the niobium China uses in the steel industry is imported".