Itaoeste discovers thallium deposit in Bahia
Itaoeste, a mineral research and development company active in São Paulo, Piauí and Bahia, recently announced the discovery of a thallium deposit at Barreiras in Bahia, Brazil. With this new addition, the company’s portfolio, comprising manganese, cobalt, iron, titanium, gold, copper and phosphate, among others, becomes even more attractive and places Brazil in the select group of thallium producers, until now limited to China and Kazakhstan.
What makes the thallium find in Brazil unique is that it is the only deposit in the world where thallium is associated with manganese and cobalt in continental geological environment. Its size is also surprising, for the total thallium metal reserve amounts to more than 60 million grams, enough to supply the world for six years on the basis of current consumption of 10 million grams per year. In 2010, the thallium price averaged US$ 6 per gram.
“The thallium deposit found in Brazil,” says Olacyr de Moraes, Itaoeste’s majority stockholder, “will enable this rare metal, with its immense range of potential in advanced technology applications, to be produced in Bahia. The result will be more investments and greater business opportunities arising from this new deposit.”
The results, reported to the National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM), correspond to only 2 per cent of an area totalling 44,000 hectares, which the company is still researching. “The outlook is very favorable,” says Vladimir Aps, Itaoeste’s technical director. “Our ongoing studies confirm the continuity of the mineralization, which testifies to the potential of the deposit, apart from significant reserves of manganese and cobalt, both in great demand and commanding a high market price.”
Apart from enhancing Brazil’s importance worldwide through its discovery of a rare metal, Itaoeste has also introduced innovations in the development of processes for the extraction of the three metals at the new site. In hydrometallurgical experiments, the samples were submitted to a series of operations, achieving the production of manganese sulphate, cobalt oxide and thallium salts, with a very high rate of recovery. The experiments were conducted by researchers under contract to Itoeste and were carried out in the Mining and Petroleum Engineering Department of the Polytechnic School at the University of São Paulo (USP).
Potential in Advanced Technology
The addition of thallium to Itaoeste’s portfolio strengthens the company’s position in research in the field of high-value ores. Thallium has many applications, most of them sharing a key characteristic: they play an important role in advanced technology processes with excellent opportunities for future growth.
One of the commonest applications is the production of contrast used in cardiological imaging exams. Thallium is regarded as the best product currently available for diagnosing cardiac problems.
In the medical area, it is used in in vitro cultures designed to isolate mycroplasmas, submicroscopic bacteria which are present in many illnesses and which can be difficult to detect.
Important research projects are now under way in several countries to establish applications for thallium in two highly promising fields, namely thermoelectric materials and high-temperature superconductors. In both cases, thallium plays a leading role.
High-temperature superconductors (HTS), for example, enable electric power to be carried over long distances with minimal loss. A single HTS cable can replace an entire transmission line carrying power from the generating source to final destination.
Thermoelectric materials transform heat into electricity and vice versa. The number of applications is vast. Many components, ranging from vehicle engines to computer chips, give off heat, wasting part of the energy generated. Thermoelectric materials have the capability to transform this heat into usable electricity, which opens new prospects. Furthermore, new appliances become possible, such as refrigerators with no moving parts.
Other industrial applications include the production LED screens and equipment for detecting gamma and infrared radiation. Thallium compounds may also be present in lenses and photoelectric cells. Thallium sulphate, which alters electrical conductivity on exposure to infrared light, holds an important position in this field.
Thallium oxide has applications in the production of glass with very high rates of refraction.
Founded in 2002, Itaoeste Serviços e Participações Ltda. is a mineral research and development company focusing on high-value products. With its head office in São Paulo,Brazil, the company undertakes research into manganese, cobalt, iron, titanium, gold, copper, phosphate, thallium and other ores in the states of São Paulo, Piauí and Bahia. In February 2011, Itaoeste announced the discovery of a thallium deposit at Barreiras in Bahia, placing Brazil in the select group of thallium producing countries. For further information about Itaoeste and its activities visit www.itaoeste.com.br.