ferroniobium is a microalloying metal used to increase the strength of steel. Niobium, when alloyed with a high amount of iron, increases the strength and reduces the weight of steel. It is also a corrosion-resistant metal that can withstand very high temperatures.
The addition of niobium to a steel produces a microalloy called High-Strength, Low-Alloy (HSLA). This 65% niobium and 35% iron alloy improves grain refinement, precipitation hardening, and weldability. It also increases the fatigue resistance of steel, enabling it to withstand repeated stress and wear over time.
HSLA steels are used in oil and gas pipelines, automobiles, bridges, construction equipment, tools, ship hulls, railroad tracks and any other structure that requires a good strength-to-weight ratio. It can be added to many different types of steel to improve its properties.
Global production of ferroniobium is controlled by four companies: CBMM, China Molybdenum, Magris Resources and Anglo American. CBMM leads the industry with 85% of global production. Other producers include Brazil, Canada and Russia.
Demand for ferroniobium is primarily driven by the need for HSLA steel in construction, automotive and oil and gas industries. However, it is also used in aerospace applications and battery packs for electric vehicles.
Supply is limited, as only two mines produce commercially significant quantities of ferroniobium. As a result, no new mines have come online since 1976. This trend is expected to continue, though several companies are pursuing their feasibility studies for entering the market.