London — Brazilian niobium and ferroniobium producer CBMM has completed a $555 million expansion of its ferroniobium plant in Araxa, Minas Gerais state in southeast Brazil, which will allow it to increase sales of the ferroalloy to meet growing demand from the global automotive, renewable energy and electronics sectors, a company executive told S&P Global Platts.
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The plant's ferroniobium production capacity has been increased to 150,000 mt/year, said Rogerio Marques Ribas, international market spokeman, in a May 27 interview. This is more than the current total market demand of around 110,000 mt/year, he said.
The ferroniobium market is understood to have shrunk to around 95,000 mt in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, CBMM sold around 72,000 mt of ferroniobium.
Ferroniobium capacity at CBMM's plant was put at around 100,000 mt/year before the expansion.
"We expect the market to grow and we are working for that ... our strategic position is to be always ahead of the market, so we take this risk," said Ribas, noting that sales are expected to recover this year.
Ferroniobium usage is growing in high-strength low-alloy steel applications in the automotive industry, in superalloys for turbines, including wind turbines, in semiconductors, and medical imaging equipment, and it is also used in gas pipelines, he said. Niobium oxide is the raw material for superalloys production.
Brazil holds the world's biggest niobium reserves and CBMM is the world's largest niobium producer, producing both niobium oxide and ferroniobium, which it describes as its core business and flagship product.
Ferroniobium is also produced by the China Molybdenum Corp in Brazil, and by Niobec in Canada.