Alkane Resource: Hafnium
Hafnium is a lustrous grey metal that lends unique properties to certain high-temperature superalloys used in the aerospace industry, allowing them to maintain high strength and stability when operating at very high temperatures. Hafnium also has increasing use in oxide form as an electrical insulator in the microelectronics industry.
Chemically resembling zirconium, hafnium is always found in zirconium minerals, from which it needs to be extracted using advanced metallurgical processing. It is usually traded as hafnium metal in ‘crystal bar’ form, or as hafnium oxide (HfO2) or hafnium tetrachloride (HfCl4).
At the Dubbo Project (DP), the source of hafnium is a hydrous zirconium silicate mineral (not zircon) containing hafnium oxide within the orebody. To produce high-purity zirconium materials, the DP is developing the process to separate hafnium from zirconium. At a planned ore processing rate of one million tonnes per annum and a hafnium recovery rate of 50%, the DP could produce up to 200 tpa of hafnium in the form of hafnium oxide. This is more than triple the current world hafnium supply - without reliance to the nuclear industry.
For more information on how Hafnium is used, click on the image below.