"An opportunity to own a piece of their supply chain" - Boron One's Tim Daniels
The boron industry is ripe for a shakeup and customers are eager to see new suppliers come online, said Tim Daniels, CEO and President of Boron One.
Daniels spoke to Kitco reporter Ernest Hoffman in March. He cited a recent report from Credit Suisse that projects demand for Boron growing by as much as 10 times over the next decade.
"Boron is one of the single most important minerals in decarbonization," said Daniels. "Wind turbines, you need Boron both in the electric motors and in the turbine blades, solar panels use a tremendous amount of boron, rechargeable batteries, energy efficient buildings, hydrogen fuel cells, nuclear fission, all these rely heavily on boron."
Daniels said supporting that demand will be tough, and it's made even more difficult by the structure of the boron sector itself: 73% of known deposits are in Turkey, and two companies, Rio Tinto and Turkish state-owned Eti Maden, control 70% of the market.
"You can actually count all the economic deposits of boron on one hand, that's how few of the deposits are in the world," he said. "Normally an oligopoly is a very difficult situation for a new player to enter, but because of the nature of boron itself and the boron market, it's the exact opposite in our case."
He said all the boron-hungry industries recognize how limited and fragile their supplies are, and the lessons of the Ukraine war are not lost on them.
"They're not happy about that, they're not comfortable about that, and they welcome an alternative supplier," he said. "The gap between supply and demand is widening each year at an ever-increasing pace, so there's this natural and organic space in the market for a new player to enter."
Daniels said Boron One is moving full-speed ahead to bring their Serbia-based project into production. "We're in the licensing process right now with the government, by this summer we'll have completed the second step, which is the feasibility study, which grants us the exploitation license," he said. "In the perfect world scenario, we can see production by late in 2026."
He said the opportunity for boron-consuming businesses goes beyond just having another supplier on the market; they can actually own a piece of their strategic long-term supply.
"The one thing that we're able to bring to the table, under the right terms and conditions with the the right potential strategic partner, is the opportunity for those consumers of borites to own a piece of their supply chain, meaning come in and participate with us on an equity plane in the development of the project," he said. "That's something that the other big players in the boron industry will never offer them."
"What they see in us is not only a very attractive-looking alternative supply, but an opportunity to own a piece of their supply chain that they just haven't had the ability to do in the past."