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The pleasure and pain of sexy metals

- By: John P Sykes
Posted in: Blog, Commodities, Exploration, Mineral Economics, Mining


In Allan Trench’s Strictly Boardroom column on today, I have helped him co-author an article entitled “The pleasure and pain of sexy metals“. The article looks at the challenges in developing some of the so-called ‘sexy metals’ such as bismuth, cobalt, graphite, lithium, niobium, phosphate, potash, radium, rare earths, sulphuric acid, tantalum, tungsten, uranium and vanadium (admittedly some of these are not metals but the lessons about their markets stand), where the project risk lies in market entry, rather than minerals discovery (a group we have also called concave metals).  The technical challenges involved with such metals are now reasonably well-established, so this article goes through some of the economic challenges including cost curve shape, the consolidated nature of supplier or buyers, the division of the market regionally, or along the value-chain, business-to-business markets and the challenges of dealing with strategic investors and commodity traders. The article is available to subscribers on