Humates and humic acids are certianly nothing new, in fact, humates are millions of years old. They are organic matter in an advanced state of decay. Humates have passed through the stages of compost and peat but have not yet become coal.
Here is a great informational sheet describing the benefits of humates: Humic Info Sheet
If you are not currently using humates and/or humic acids you need to consider adding this powerful soil amendment to your fertility program.