(Updates with fertilizer spending in fourth paragraph.)
Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Anglo American Plc said it will consider next month a project to increase niobium capacity in Brazil by 50 percent as the London-based company begins studies into an expansion of its phosphate operations.
Anglo’s board will decide at its February meeting whether to increase annual niobium output to 6,000 metric tons, Ruben Fernandes, head of niobium and phosphates, said today, declining to reveal how much Anglo will invest. The company will start pre-feasibility studies this year into a proposal to double phosphate capacity, he said.
“Our focus is niobium and phosphate, strengthening those businesses,” Fernandes, 47, said in an interview from the CRU Fertilizer Latino Americano 2013 conference in Sao Paulo. “We have very strong market fundamentals.”
Mining companies from Anglo to Vale SA are investing about $19 billion on fertilizer projects in Brazil through 2017 as the world’s largest producer of coffee, sugar and orange juice seeks to reduce dependence on imported crop nutrients. Brazil imports 92 percent of its potash and 75 percent of its nitrogen-based fertilizer supplies, industry group ANDA said in an August presentation.
Anglo is Brazil’s second-largest phosphate producer after Rio de Janeiro-based Vale and the second-biggest niobium producer after Cia. Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineracao, Fernandes said. Niobium is used in high-temperature alloys for jet engines and in lightweight steel for cars.
Anglo decided in 2011 to keep its niobium and phosphate unit, formerly known as Copebras, after considering its sale. The unit has capacity to produce 1.35 million tons of phosphate concentrate per year, according to its website.
Fernandes, a former Vale executive, joined Anglo in July from Votorantim Metals, where he headed the company’s mining business. He holds a degree in metallurgical engineering and an MBA in strategic management from Sao Paulo University.
--Editors: James Attwood, Carlos Caminada