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The Union Cabinet recently approved royalty rates in respect of three critical and strategic minerals, namely, lithium, niobium, and Rare Earth Elements.

  • Niobium is a rare, soft, malleable, ductile, gray-white metal.
  • It has a body-cantered cubic crystalline structure.
  • It must be placed in a protective atmosphere when processed at even moderate temperatures because it tends to react with oxygen, carbon, the halogens, nitrogen, and sulphur.
  • Niobium resists corrosion due to the oxide film.
  • The metal starts to oxidise rapidly in the air at 200 degrees Celsius.
  • The metal is inert to acids, even to aqua regia at room temperature, but is attacked by hot, concentrated acids, and especially by alkalis and oxidizing agents.
  • It is one of the five major refractory metals (metals with very high resistance to heat and wear).
  • It has the property of becoming superconducting at low temperatures
  • It is not found free in nature but in minerals such as columbite and tantalite.
  • Commercially, niobium is extracted by first forming the oxide (Nb2O5).
  • The oxide is then reduced using carbon or hydrogen.
  • Major Producers: Brazil is the world’s largest supplier, with Canada a distant second.