“Critical metals” may be defined as those that modern society cannot do without, while “specialty metals” are generally found in hi-tech and green-tech (Mickey Fulp). Like air, they tend not to be thought of until they become unaffordable or unobtainable.
A list of “critical metals” of interest to New Zealand as a supplier includes: iron ore (for steel and steel alloys); copper (electricity); and titanium (pigments and alloys). That is in onshore and offshore ironsands (ilmenite, titanomagnetite); and in submarine, metal-rich hot spring deposits in the Kermadecs.
The “specialty metals” of interest to New Zealand include: vanadium and tungsten (steel alloys); tantalum (electronics); and the “rare earth elements” (hi-tech). New Zealand has potential in the first two metals, and more work is needed to assess resource potential in tantalum, and in REEs, e.g., yttrium, lanthanum, neodymium, samarium.
In thinking of opportunities for smaller exploration companies, Fulp recommends “countries that have acceptable geopolitical risk (i.e., stable and corruption-free governments), strong rule of law, mining-friendly, and reasonable bureaucratic and environmental regulations”. While New Zealand does well on the first two indicators, mining is controversial, and our country is beset with regulatory complexity.