The existence of deposits of scarce metals germanium and gallium in Greece was confirmed by exploration company Rockfire Resources after its latest drill at Molaoi in the Peloponnese.
The London-listed metal exploration company says that the discovered high-grade germanium and elevated gallium are expected to add significant further value to its Molaoi project.
Germanium and gallium are both included on the US and EU lists of critical minerals, owing to geological scarcity. Gallium is included on the UK list of critical minerals.
China has recently announced restrictions on the export supplies of both gallium and germanium products, citing national security reasons.
“The results are extremely pleasing and many of the samples which initially recorded values close to the lower level of detection returned strongly elevated germanium,” David Price, Chief Executive Officer of Rockfire said.
“The detection of gallium is a bonus and is expected to add further value to the Molaoi project economics,” he added.
High-grade germanium and elevated gallium discovered in Greece
The germanium metal ingot price is currently at $2,756.10 per kg whereas gallium is trading at $643.90 per kg.
Rockfire says that it confirmed germanium grades between 9.0 and 40.0 grams per tonne (g/t) with the highest individual germanium assay being 73.8 g/t.
Gallium grades between 9.7 and 19.0 g/t have been intersected with the highest individual gallium assay being 33.3g/t.
Germanium and gallium are used in everyday technology
Germanium is used in the manufacture of everyday technology including mobile phones, electronics, solar cells, camera lenses, satellites, computer screens, as well as steering and parking sensors for vehicles.
Germanium is also used in numerous military applications including weapons-sighters (scopes) and infrared night vision.
Gallium arsenide has a similar structure to silicon and is a useful silicon substitute for the electronics industry. It is an important component of many semiconductors.
Any disruption in the supply of these metals would therefore unsettle downstream markets valued in the trillions of dollars.
Both gallium and germanium are classified as dispersed metals that occur in deficient concentrations in the Earth’s crust, rendering extraction highly uneconomical.
For instance, gallium primarily exists as a secondary element in bauxite ore, with its production primarily being a by-product of aluminum refining. Likewise, germanium rarely forms independent ores and is typically found within minerals composed of other elements.
EU approaches Greek company to produce gallium
The EU has urgently called on aluminum and zinc companies to investigate producing the key semiconductor metals after the restriction imposed by China.
It has approached Mytilineos Energy & Metals, a Greek aluminum producer, and asked it to explore producing gallium as a byproduct at its refinery that turns bauxite into alumina, a starting material for aluminum, in Agios Nikolaos in mainland Greece.
“The EU has reached out to us with regards to evaluating how alumina refineries can contribute to a way out of this crisis,” Nick Keramidas, executive director of EU affairs at the company told the Financial Times recently.
The EU sources 71 percent of its gallium and 45 percent of germanium from China, according to the EU, but there are only a handful of companies outside of China capable of producing the high-purity metals used in chipmaking, solar photovoltaic cells and optic fibres.