Thursday, 22 March 2012

mining for Hafnium

Hafnium is 72HF and it is atomic element 72 on the periodic table.

Mining for Hafnium is basically mining for zirconium since the two metals almost always are found together. Zirconium was discovered in 1789 by the German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth who named his discovery after the gemstone zircon which had been around since....forever. The Arabs called the golden yellow stone - zargon.

So mining for zargon is an ancient story but modern zirconium mining is a relatively new story and mining for Hafnium is an even more recent story since Hafnium was only discovered in the 1900's.

Zirconium and Hafnium are pure elements which are seperated from silicates and mineral ores through the process of smelting. The mineral zircon which can be found in ancient beach sand deposits. These beach deposits are a remnant of time and the content comes from metamorphic rocks which themselves crystallized when the earth was cooling - Gneiss and Schist. That isn't a reference. Gneiss and Schist are products of dynamic metamorphism which is a process of cooling in volcanic organic places like earth.

Baddeleyite is a rare oxide mineral called sometimes called Zirconia or ZrO2. Baddeleyite is also a source for Hafnium mining.

" Before the Zircon particles can become part of the beach sand deposits, their host rocks must undergo a series of events that will ultimately liberate the zircon from transportation to a seacoast......the rocks are broken down into smaller fragments and transported downhill  by rainwater and gravity. The rocks further decompose to the point at which the smaller zircon grains are liberated from the enclosing feldspars and quartz.............." Surface Mining, p. 268. ed.2

Hafnium is found wherever ancient beach sand deposits are found. 

Zircon mines and Hafnium mines and the volatile commodity markets

Most mining for Hafnium and Zirconium is done in Africa and Australia. USGS minerals infomation states that for every 50 parts of zircon there is the potential for 1 part Hafnium and Zirconium. That makes zircon a mineral commodity which was selling at 900 dollars a tonne in 2009.

In the early 1970's Zircon commodity contracts were auctioning off at around 180 to 200 US. By the middle of that decade the beach sand mineral had skyrocketed to 800 dollars and retraced to 200 by the end of the decade where it stabilized for a few years. From 1986 to 1993 Zircon buyers and sellers formed a wave to 700 and back to 150. Since then the price has steadily increased but not without some serious volatility in the process.

Zirconium and Hafnium mining is a biproduct of Zircon mining. Zircon is used in ceramic tiling and in all types of production.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for putting this article together, I was thrilled to hear that you were working on it as I was one of the many readers wondering about this


Thanks for sharing