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Its importance for industry and carbon neutral technological development is such that in 2011 it was declared an element of critical importance for the US, as well as for the European Union.
Chemically, it has a behavior similar to iron and nickel, therefore it is common to find them in the same deposits. The minerals arsenides, oxides and sulfides – such as cobaltite and erythrin – are the most economically important; and they appear in a wide variety of deposits of magmatic, hydrothermal, sedimentary origin and as nodules on the seabed.
Due to its high resistance to temperatures, it is used in all types of alloys, for example, the steel superalloys used by the aerospace and nuclear industries. On the other hand, it is a key component in energy storage technologies, for example, in the manufacture of lithium battery cathodes, key to the development of electromobility.
The map below shows some of the cobalt prospects in Chile and maps with potential resources of this element in Chile. This map was built based on collected information.
It is one of the key metals for the development of clean energy – wind and batteries – also listed as critically important to the United States. Manganese is a transition metal, with chemical characteristics similar to iron, widely distributed in the Earth’s crust, being the twelfth most abundant element in it, present in rocks, soils, water and organic matter.
Among the various types of deposits, those that currently have the greatest economic importance are marine sedimentary sequences enriched in magnanese, however, there is great potential not yet exploited in the ferromagnesian nodules found on the ocean floor.
Manganese is a key component in improving the properties of alloys, for example, it provides resistance to corrosion. It is essential and irreplaceable in the production of steel, an industry that takes most of its consumption. It is also very relevant in the manufacture of aluminum, copper, zinc alloys, among others. On the other hand, it is used in the manufacture of the classic dry batteries.
Hand in hand with interest in lithium in Chile, manganese has also begun to arouse interest in the country, as it is a component of its rechargeable batteries. The map below shows some of the current manganese prospects in Chile and maps with potential resources of this element in Chile, built based on information collected.
Commonly called rare earth elements (REE) is a group of fifteen chemical elements -the lanthanides-, plus yttrium and scandium. Listed as an element of critical importance by the European Union and the United States; some of these elements are considered strategic due to their importance in the development of clean energies, there is even a possibility of future supply risk.
It is rare to find deposits that have concentrations that make them economically viable, however, to date the most common have been carbonatites, igneous rocks with high carbonate content. The El Cabrito Mining project, located in the Penco commune, Biobío Region, is the first in Chile that seeks to enter the rare earth elements’ market, considered as a deposit of adsorbent clays.
Regarding their uses, they are necessary components in a wide range of products of high technological value, with applications in the aerospace, medicine, digital devices, renewable energy, and lighting industries, among others.
Tellurium is a semi-metallic element, with properties intermediate between those of metals and non-metals. It is a very rare element, comparable to platinum, mostly found in combination with other metals such as copper, lead, silver and gold, forming telluride minerals such as calaverite.
This element (within a limited group of elements) is considered critical for the transition towards a carbon neutral future, mainly due to its use in the manufacture of films for photovoltaic cells and applications for the production of wind energy. Currently, 40% of the world’s consumption is for solar energy applications, and 35% for thermoelectric applications.
Only two districts in the world extract tellurium as a primary product: China and Sweden, accounting for 15% of world production. This element’s case is very interesting for Chile, since it practically does not participate in the market, however, more than 90% of the Tellurium produced worldwide is obtained from anodic copper mud.
This precious metal is known for its use in jewelry, bullion and coins, however, at an industrial level it has applications in dental amalgam alloys, engines, photography, among others.
The expansion of clean energies, specifically solar, could bring a great demand for this metal. The potential technologies to use in the manufacture of photovoltaic cells are those of crystalline silicon, which require large amounts of silver. However, this demand will ultimately depend on the technology chosen by the industry.
Chile has one of the most important reserves of this metal in the world, in the map below, you can see the silver prospects in Chile collected by ChilePolimetálico, added to areas with potential resources for this element in the Arica Region.
El hierro es uno de los elementos más abundantes de la corteza terrestre, siendo el segundo metal más abundante por detrás del aluminio. Debido a esto último y por tener buenas características, como buena resistencia y maleabilidad, ha sido utilizado por la humanidad desde hace siglos.
Actualmente, el mineral de hierro es uno de los pilares centrales de la economía mundial, siendo el commodity más transado internacionalmente después del petróleo y el metal de mayor producción en el mundo. Sus mayores usos son para la fabricación de hierro fundido, hierro forjado y acero, elemento que es usado en una amplia variedad de industrias, como la inmobiliaria, automotriz, y construcción de maquinarias, entre otras aplicaciones. Como resultado, la demanda de hierro está ligada directamente a la producción de acero. En efecto, alrededor del 98% del mineral de hierro se utiliza en la industria siderúrgica.
A futuro, su potencial uso en el desarrollo y expansión de las energías limpias podría ocurrir como componente de turbinas para producción de energía eólica y celdas fotovoltaicas para energía solar, entre otras.
En ChilePolimetálico recogemos algunos prospectos de hierro que se muestran en el mapa a continuación.
Titanium is an abundant and widely distributed element on the Earth’s crust. It is a metal that stands out for being light but at the same time highly resistant, as well as having excellent anticorrosive characteristics. Due to these unique properties, it is considered a critical and strategic mineral for the United States.
Titanium in its metallic state or in alloys is essential for modern industrial economies, being widely used in the aerospace industry, welding, biological implants, marine equipment – due to its resistance to corrosion from seawater. However, most of the production (95%) is refined to titanium dioxide, which is used as a white pigment in papers, paints, textiles, etc.
Germanium is a hard, brittle, metallic-looking metalloid, chemically similar to tin or silicon, which exhibits the physical and chemical properties of a metal only under special conditions. It has a low abundance in the Earth’s crust, and like many minor metals, it is not found in its pure state. Only a few minerals of germanium have been identified, the main one being germanite, which was the main source in the past, however, there are no economically profitable deposits of this element at the moment. Therefore, its main source comes as a by-product of zinc and coal mining.
It is listed as a critical mineral for both the European Union and the United States, due to its economic importance and supply risk. The top three main uses are in fiber optics, solar cells in satellites, and infrared lenses. It is also used as a semiconductor in electronic components and as a catalyst in the production of plastics. Finally, it is used in silicon-germanium films, one of the options to be widely used in the manufacture of solar cells.
A silvery-white metal, excellent electrical and thermal conductor, magnetic and with a low melting point (30°C). Its abundance on Earth is limited, comparable to that of lead. It is not o found in its pure state, it is found replacing or combined with other elements, forming minerals such as gallita. It is not common to find economically profitable deposits for its extraction as primary ore, therefore, it is mainly extracted as a by-product or co-product of aluminum mining (and to a much lesser extent zinc).
The European Union and the United States consider it a critical element, in part, due to its role as a semiconductor, its importance in the development of clean energy, electronics and lighting. Among the main high-tech products where gallium is essential we have solar panels with CIGS technology (copper-indium-gallium-selenium), lighting applications (mainly LED) and integrated circuits.
With chemical behavior very similar to tellurium, it’s an element with unique characteristics and it has low abundance in the Earth’s crust. It is rare to find it in its pure state, rather it’s found as a compound with other elements, especially as an impurity in some sulfides. Therefore, its main production comes from the anode sludge from the electrolytic refining of copper or nickel.
Most of its production is used in the production of manganese (metallurgy), as a colorant for glass and ceramics, in agriculture as a micronutrient in livestock diets and a fertilizer additive, among others.
An emerging application for this element is as a component of films for photovoltaic cells, specifically those with CIGS technology (copper-indium-gallium-selenium), because the combination of these materials gives good properties such as durability, high levels of adsorption and conversion. to electricity. In the case of massification of this option, it would result in a significant increase in its demand.
Silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust after oxygen, the base element of silicates, the main constituents of rocks.
The most frequent use of silicon is in its form of clay and sand, for the manufacture of bricks, enamels, concrete and ceramics in the construction industry. In its pure metallic state – metallic silicon – it is used for the production of components of high technological value such as microchips, solar cells, electronic devices, among others.
The European Union and the United States list it as an element of strategic and critical interest, in part because of its importance for the development and expansion of future technologies such as, for example, the manufacture of used crystalline silicon films in solar cells; and also because of the fact that it has no substitute compounds.
Molybdenum is a metal that is generally associated with other elements, such as copper. It is common to see it exploited as a by-product of copper extraction. In Chile, it is all obtained this way.
Its main characteristics are durability, resistance and ability to withstand aggressive corrosion and high temperatures. This is the reason why this metal is required mainly as a component of alloys, for example, in the steel used in engineering and stainless steel. Other secondary uses are in the chemical industry such as pigments, lubricants, among others.
On the other hand, it is considered as one of the strategic elements for the development of clean energies, related to the construction of wind turbines, the manufacture of films in the photovoltaic cells, the capture and storage of CO2, among others.
Zinc is currently the fourth most consumed metal in the world after iron, aluminum and copper. It is malleable, ductile and is not found in its pure state in nature, rather, in sulfides such as sphalerite or blende.
Due to its good anticorrosive and binding chemical properties with other metals, its main application in the industry is galvanizing of iron and steel, which consumes around 50% of the annual production; It is also a constituent of alloys such as brass, used in the automotive industry, electrical and domestic components.
Zinc would see an increase in demand in a future that requires clean energy, since it has a potential use in technologies such as: wind power turbines and photovoltaic cells. On the other hand, rechargeable zinc batteries are currently being studied as an option for energy storage, due to low costs and good performance.
This metal is not very abundant in the Earth’s crust, however, if it is found naturally concentrated in deposits of economic relevance composed of sulfides and sulfates such as galena and anglesite, respectively. Lead is heavy, malleable, and resistant to corrosion.
Most of the production (85%) is used in lead-acid batteries for diesel and petroleum cars and as standby batteries in computers, telecommunications and vehicles of all kinds. Among other secondary applications, it is found in pigments, alloys and wiring.
In the future, lead-acid batteries could continue to have a degree of participation in energy storage, forming mixed systems, because although they have some disadvantages compared to lithium batteries, they are cheaper and the technology is more mature. On the other hand, it could also be used in some technologies related to wind and solar energy and cables for telephone use and television, since it can stretch and form a continuous lining that covers the internal conduits.