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Raw & Manufactured Materials: 2013 Overview

January 4, 2013

Manufactured Abrasives

The global demand for abrasives is expected to grow 6.3% annually to $44.8 billion in 2015, according to The Freedonia Group. Advances will be driven by ongoing industrialization activity in developing areas, rising per capita incomes and consumer spending, growing durables manufacturing output, and greater fixed investment activity, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

Although sales gains in North America and Western Europe will not be as strong as those in developing regions, the report indicates that growth will be much

The global demand for abrasives is expected to grow 6.3% annually to $44.8 billion in 2015, according to The Freedonia Group.

improved over the 2005-2010 period as durable goods manufacturing in these areas rebounds. In Western Europe, abrasives demand is expected to increase 2.4% per year through 2015, while North America is projected to fare even better, with sales gains averaging 5% annually. Competition from lower-cost foreign manufacturers will put pressure on domestic manufacturers, limiting production increases and associated demand for abrasives. Abrasives sales in Central and South America, the Africa-Mideast region, and Eastern Europe are projected to outpace demand in developed areas but will lag gains in the Asia-Pacific region.

Freedonia expects nonmetallic abrasives to register slower sales gains than metallic abrasives. Demand for loose grains and powders is forecast to expand the fastest of any nonmetallic abrasive type through 2015, supported by rising levels of integrated circuit manufacturing. Coated and bonded abrasive sales are expected to rise at similar rates. Superabrasives are quickly gaining favor with manufacturers because of their long life and high performance characteristics.1

Production in the U.S. and Canada of regular-grade fused aluminum oxide was flat in 2011 at 10,000 t with an estimated value of $1.9 million. U.S. imports for consumption increased by 13.5% to 210,000 t, while exports were flat at 20,000 t.

Silicon carbide production (U.S. and Canada) also remained flat in 2011, at 35,000 t. Domestic production of crude silicon carbide had an estimated value of about $26 million. U.S. imports for consumption declined slightly (2.1%) to 140,000 t, and exports jumped 21.2% to 28,000 t. Apparent consumption of silicon carbide in the U.S. decreased by 3.2% to 150,000 t.


World antimony production peaked at 203,500 t in 2011, driven by continued growth in consumption in flame retardants and lead-acid batteries, according to

2013 Raw/Manufactured Categories:

Bauxite and Alumina

Boron Minerals





Magnesium Compounds



Niobium and Tantalum

Rare Earths


Soda Ash

Talc and Pyrophyllite

Titanium and Related Materials


Roskill Information Services Ltd. Growth was expected to continue through 2012 and beyond, but how supply will match demand will depend on investment in new production over the medium term. 

Growth in consumption has been led by high growth rates in Asia, particularly in China, over the past few years. Overall, antimony demand remains highly dependent on the level of consumption of antimony trioxide in the flame retardants sector and antimony metal in lead-acid batteries. Roskill estimates that these two sectors accounted for nearly 80% of antimony consumption worldwide in 2011. Non-metallurgical markets for antimony are forecast to increase by nearly 4% per year through to 2016, with higher growth for flame retardants, plastic catalysts and heat stabilizers tempered by lower growth in ceramics and other uses.

China remains by far the world’s largest producer of primary antimony; six companies, including Hunan Hsikwangshan (Twinkling Star), Guangxi China Tin and Hunan Chenzhou Mining, account for 90% of supply. Roskill estimates that China accounted for around 70% of official mine production in 2011, down from around 80% in earlier years. Production in China is unlikely to increase over the next few years and could even fall in the face of government determination to limit environmental damage from smaller operations.

Efforts to improve the environmental impact of the industry have led to a number of suspensions and closures at mines and smelters, with some plants unable to meet the costs of upgrading and improving their facilities. This, together with increasing crackdowns on illegal mining and smuggling, has contributed to volatile production levels. Roskill considers that illegal supply from China amounted to 15-20% of total world supply from 2008 to 2011.

Increased production elsewhere is likely to offset any declines in Chinese production in the short term. Roskill has identified a number of significant additional sources of antimony concentrates in Europe, North America, Africa and Oceania that could add over 14,000 tpy to world mine capacity within the next four years. Most notably, Australian production could increase by as much as 5,500 tpy if a buyer is found for the Hillgrove operation and if the new investors in Anchor Resources bring the Bielsdown deposit on stream.2

There was no antimony mine production in the U.S. in 2011. Imports for consumption declined by 3.4% to 25,300 t; apparent consumption was down 1.5% to 26,600 t. The estimated distribution of antimony uses was: flame retardants, 36%; transportation (including batteries), 23%; chemicals, 16%; ceramics and glass, 12%; and others, 13%.

Bauxite and Alumina

Apparent U.S. consumption of bauxite and alumina (in aluminum equivalents) in 2011 increased by 13.2% to about 2.7 Mt. Nearly all bauxite consumed in the U.S. was imported; of the total (11 Mt in 2011, up 18% from 2010), more than 90% was converted to alumina. Domestic bauxite was used in the production of nonmetallurgical products such as abrasives, chemicals and refractories. Exports of bauxite rose 5.7% to 56,000 t.

Production increases from expanded, new and reopened mines in Brazil, China, Guinea, India, Jamaica, Suriname, and Venezuela account for most of the increase in worldwide bauxite production in 2011 (see Table 1). Bauxite production in Australia declined slightly due to flooding. According to Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., Australia supplies 32.7% of total global bauxite output.3

About 90% of the alumina converted from bauxite went to primary aluminum smelters, and the remainder went to nonmetallurgical uses. Annual alumina production capacity was 5.64 Mt in 2011. Alumina imports shot up by 29.7% to 2.2 Mt, while exports rose 19.7% to 1.8 Mt.

World production of alumina increased by 8% in 2011 over the previous year, according to production data from the International Aluminium Institute and industry sources in China. According to Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., China accounts for 34% of the global market share of alumina.4

Boron Minerals

Elemental boron is a metalloid with limited commercial applications. Boron compounds (chiefly colemanite, kernite, tincal and ulexite) make up 90% of the borates used by industry worldwide. Although there are more than 300 end uses for borates, more than three-quarters of the world’s supply is sold into four end uses: ceramics, detergents, fertilizer and glass. The estimated distribution pattern for boron compounds consumed in the U.S. in 2011 was: glass and ceramics, 80%; soaps, detergents and bleaches, 4%; agriculture, 4%; enamels and glazes, 3%; and other, 9%.

U.S. imports for consumption of borax remained flat (at less than 1,000 t), while those for boric acid increased by 10% to 55,000 t. Imports of ulexite skyrocketed from 1,000 t in 2010 to 15,000 t in 2011. Exports of boric acid were down slightly (5.3%, to 250,000 t), and refined sodium borate exports rose to 510,000 t (up 20.1%).

The global economic crisis has negatively affected sectors such as construction and automotive that are vital for boron consumption. The moderate recovery in 2010 created steady growth in boron consumption and production. Consumption of borates was expected to have increased in 2011 and that will continue in the coming years, spurred by strong demand in the Asian and South American agricultural, ceramic and glass markets. For example, boron consumption in the global fiberglass industry was projected to increase by 7% annually through 2013, fueled by a projected 19% increase in Chinese consumption.

World consumption of borates was projected to reach 2 Mt (of B2O3) by 2014, compared to 1.5 Mt in 2010. According to Merchant Research & Consulting, Turkey and the U.S. hold around 73% of the total worldwide boron production capacity.5


The leading 20 firms in the U.S. supplied about 51% of the tonnage and 79% of the value for all types of clay domestically sold or used. Table 2 lists mine production of various types of clay in 2011. Sales or use of all types of clay in the U.S. was estimated to be 25.9 Mt (valued at $1.56 billion) in 2011. Major uses for specific clays were estimated as follows:

• Ball clay—floor and wall tile, 39%; sanitaryware, 21%; and other uses, 40%
• Bentonite—absorbents, 30%; drilling mud, 26%, iron ore pelletizing, 13%; foundry sand bond, 12%; and other uses, 19%
• Common clay—brick, 47%; lightweight aggregate, 25%; cement, 21%; other uses, 7%
• Fire clay—heavy clay products, 50%; and refractory products and other uses, 50%
• Fuller’s earth—absorbents, 72%; and other uses, 28%
• Kaolin—paper, 44%; and other uses, 56%

Overall, U.S. exports remained relatively flat at 4.4 Mt for 2011, including: ball clay, up 33.3% to 60,000 t; bentonite, up 2.8% to 980,000 t; fire clay, down 3.5% to 390,000 t; fuller’s earth, up 5% to 105,000 t; kaolin, up slightly (1.2%) to 2.5 Mt; and clays not elsewhere classified, down 8.3% to 350,000 t.

According to The Freedonia Group, the world market for kaolin is projected to grow 3.7% per year through 2015 to 28.4 Mt, valued at nearly $4 billion. This represents a significant acceleration from the relative stagnation of the 2005-2010 period. Growth in kaolin demand will be fueled by a generally stronger economic climate worldwide, with especially rapid growth in developing economies.

The largest gains will be seen in China, which alone will account for 37% of the growth in worldwide kaolin demand between 2010-2015. Currently the world’s second-largest consumer of kaolin, China will experience large-scale manufacturing growth and easily overtake the U.S. to become the world’s largest kaolin market by 2015. India will also see a sizable increase in kaolin demand, fueled by an economy showing significant development across the board. The developed nations of the U.S. and Japan and most of the countries in Western Europe will see weak growth through 2015, although all will post recoveries in comparison to the 2005-2010 performance.

From 2010-2015, Freedonia expects that demand for kaolin in all its major industrial uses will rise faster than in the 2005-2010 period. After the paper market, the second leading usage for kaolin is ceramic production, which includes sanitaryware, tableware and tile. Ceramics were the fastest-growing market for kaolin from 2005-2010, and are forecast to continue growing quickly, at 5.3% per year through 2015.6


2011 U.S. feldspar production was valued at about $43 million. Estimated marketable domestic production reached 690,000 t, an increase of 3%, while imports for consumption remained flat at 2,000 t. Exports nosedived by 41.1%, sinking to 10,000 t. Estimated apparent consumption increased slightly (3.8%) to 680,000 t. End-use distribution of domestic feldspar in 2011 was: glass, 70%; and pottery and other uses, 30%.

According to Global Industry Analysts, Inc. (GIA), Turkey and Italy were the leading worldwide producers of feldspar in 2011, collectively producing about 10 Mt. China, Argentina, France, Korea, Thailand, Japan and Spain were the other leading producers of feldspar. Primary growth drivers for feldspar (and nepheline syenite) include ceramics, glass, fillers, adhesives, and paints. The market for ceramics represents the largest and fastest-growing end-use segment. Increased production of ceramics, particularly in China and in some traditional producers such as Italy and Spain, is currently presenting large opportunities for growth. In the Asia-Pacific region, China represents the largest supplier of feldspar to the domestic market and other Southeast Asian countries; in Europe, Turkey is one of the leading suppliers.

The consumption of feldspar is higher in tile-producing regions such as China, Latin America, Spain, Italy and Southeast Asia, according to the GIA report. Container glass is displaying steady growth in many areas, particularly in China and Southeast Asia where the market for beer and soft drinks is expected to grow faster than in other regions. In other regions, however, glass faces competition from alternative packaging materials like plastic, coated paper or aluminum.7


According to GIA, the global market for fluorspar is forecast to reach 5.9 Mt by 2017. Growth will come from a revival in Chinese fluorspar exports, increased economic activity, and demand from end-use markets such as aluminum smelters and electric arc furnaces. Demand for fluorspar is increasing for applications such as the production of fluoroelastomers, fluoropolymers, and partially fluorinated copolymers and polymers. The use of fluorspar varies sharply between matured markets (e.g., North America, Europe and Japan) and developing regions. About 70% of the fluorspar manufactured into the mature markets is converted into hydrofluoric acid (HF), while in the developing regions a large percentage of the mineral is consumed by the steel industry.8

In the U.S., fluorspar was used in HF production, as a flux in steelmaking, in iron and steel casting, primary aluminum production, glass manufacture, enamels, welding rod coatings, cement production, and other uses or products. Apparent U.S. consumption in 2011 increased by 3.6% to 520,000 t, and exports jumped by 27.8% to 23,000 t.


According to Roskill Information Services, world production of natural graphite increased in 2012 as Chinese amorphous mines came back on-line following government closures and consolidation. Expected growth in both traditional and emerging markets is inspiring a number of new exploration and development projects, particularly for flake graphite, in countries such as Canada, Australia, Brazil, Sweden, and parts of Africa.

China is the world’s largest producer of natural graphite, according to Roskill, accounting for around 70% of global production and 60% of exports. It is also the largest consumer and is expected to continue to tighten its grip on domestic production and exports in order to conserve resources and increase downstream processing. Synthetic graphite output is heavily concentrated in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and involves a smaller number of specialized producers. High production costs and processing knowledge are significant barriers to entry.

Roskill reports that the steel industry will remain the largest driver of graphite consumption going forward; natural graphite is used in refractory furnace linings and as a carbon raiser, while synthetic graphite is used to manufacture graphic electrodes for electric arc furnaces. The emerging markets of Li-ion battery anodes and flexible graphite products are also expected to drive long-term demand for graphite.9

Apparent U.S. consumption of natural graphite in 2011 rose 5% to 63,000 t. Major uses were estimated to be: refractory applications and crucibles, 33%; foundry operations and steelmaking, 26%; brake linings, 7%; batteries and lubricants, 5%; and other uses, 29%. Imports for consumption increased by 7.7% to 70,000 t, while exports jumped 16.7% to 7,000 t.

Magnesium Compounds

U.S. production of magnesium compounds in 2011 increased by 4.2% to 272,000 t. Apparent consumption was up 11.1% to 582,000 t, while imports for consumption increased 18.3% to 330,000 t. About 52% of the magnesium compounds consumed in the U.S. was used for refractories; the remainder was used in agricultural, chemical, construction, environmental and industrial applications. Exports jumped 25% to 20,000 t.

Several magnesia manufacturers increased capacity as the world economy began to rebound. The leading producer in Turkey acquired the mine, plant and reserves of a smaller producer in western Turkey and planned to expand caustic-calcined and dead-burned magnesia capacity at the facility. The company also planned to double the fused magnesia production capacity at its Kutahya facility to 26,000 tpy. Another Turkish magnesia producer doubled its caustic-calcined magnesia production capacity to 30,000 tpy. In Brazil, the country’s sole dead-burned magnesia producer received approval to increase its production capacity by 120,000 tpy to 440,000 tpy. In April, a new magnesia plant came on-stream in Saudi Arabia with capacities of 39,000 tpy of caustic-calcined magnesi and 32,000 tpy of dead-burned magnesia.

The world’s leading olivine producer planned to restart production at its 400,000 tpy Raubergvik and 1.9 Mtpy Grubse olivine mines in Norway. Production for the Raubergvik mine was scheduled to be shipped to the U.S., mainly for foundry use.


Manganese ore consumption is related mainly to steel production; additional uses are in the production of dry cell batteries, in plant fertilizers and animal feed, and as a brick colorant. Apparent U.S. consumption of manganese in 2011 was 810,000 t, up 6.9% over the prior year. The value of domestic consumption was about $1.3 billion (estimated from foreign trade data).

Imports for consumption of manganese ore increased by 16.6% to 570,000 t, while exports plummeted 92.9% to 1,000 t. Improved economic conditions led to planned expansions at three manganese mines, as well as the startup of two new manganese mines. This added about 4.2 Mt per year of additional manganese ore production capacity worldwide.

According to Roskill Information Services, high-grade manganese ores from Africa, Australia and South America will be required to feed the ferroalloy smelters of Asia, where ores are typically low-grade. While the future of the manganese industry will continue to depend on steel production, other applications are likely to see growth, including Li-ion and NiMh batteries for consumer, electric vehicle and storage battery applications.

In response to rising demand, Roskill expects manganese production to increase in the coming years. Although supply will increase, power restrictions and industry restructuring will add some upward pressure to prices. Manganese ore prices are expected to remain stable (with some occasional spikes); ferromanganese prices are likely to increase slightly faster than silicomanganese, reflecting faster expansion of the flat steel products market. Manganese prices could be 20-30% higher by 2016.10


Roskill Information Services reports that global demand for molybdenum bounced back from the impact of the global economic downturn by growing by just over 11% in 2010 and an additional 9% in 2011. China now accounts for around 31% of global demand, and its growth rates continue to outpace those in other countries. While global demand is forecast to grow at an average of 4.6% per year to 2016, Chinese demand is forecast to rise by 7.5% per year.

In 2012, mine capacity was sufficient to meet demand, and Roskill expects that supply will show a surplus over the next three years. Some 60 new projects and expansions could potentially produce molybdenum, indicating that long-term mine supply is assured. Insufficient roasting capacity has resulted in a bottleneck in the past, but additional capacity has been installed and further additions are under construction in Chile, China, and the U.S.11

According to Merchant Research & Consulting, China controls a large share of today’s mined molybdenum volume, representing 42.3% of worldwide output. Consumption of molybdenum in China is expected to increase strongly due to the booming expansion of the country’s steel industry.12

U.S. mine production of molybdenum in 2011 rose to 64,000 t (7.7% over 2010). While imports for consumption were down by 8.6% to 18,000 t, exports rose 4.4% to 33,000 t. Apparent U.S. consumption increased to 50,000 t (up 7.8%) in 2011.

Niobium and Tantalum

Global mine output of niobium was 63,000 t in 2011, according to Merchant Research & Consulting. Brazil takes the lead in production and also holds the majority of worldwide reserves (3 Mt). The global mine output of tantalum reached 820 t in 2011, an increase of 12.3% over 2010. Brazil, Rwanda and Mozambique were the key tantalum manufacturers from 2009-2011. Global tantalum reserves in 2011 were 120,000 t, with the largest deposits located in Australia and Brazil. Merchant anticipates that capacities for both niobium and tantalum will post annual growth through 2017.13

The U.S. imported 9,200 t of niobium (columbium) in 2011, an 8.2% increase over 2010. Exports jumped 53% to 430 t, while apparent consumption rose 9% to 8,800 t. Major end-use distribution of reported niobium consumption was in steels (75%) and superalloys (25%). The estimated value of niobium consumption was $330 million in 2010; that figure was expected to be about $400 million in 2011 (as measured by the value of imports).

Rare Earths

Based on reported data through August 2011, the estimated 2011 distribution of rare earths by end use was: catalysts, 47%; metallurgical applications and alloys, 13%; alloys, 11%; glass polishing and ceramics, 10%; permanent magnets, 9%; ceramics, 5%; and rare earth phosphors for computer monitors, lighting, radar, televisions, and X-ray intensifying film, 5%. 

All seven U.S. rare earth import categories decreased in 2011 compared with those of 2010: cerium compounds, down 26.6% to 1,300 t; ferrocerium (alloys), down .8% to 130 t; mixed rare earth chlorides, down 65.5% to 330 t; mixed rare earth oxides, down 58% to 2,300 t; rare earth oxide compounds, down 7% to 3,700 t; and rare earth metals (alloy), down 20% to 420 t. Due to declining supply, prices for most rare earth compounds increased significantly in the third and fourth quarters of 2011. Overall, the estimated value of refined rare earths imported by the U.S. was $696 million, a significant increase over 2010’s $161 million.

With one exception, U.S. exports increased in 2011: cerium compounds, up 3.7% to 1,400 t; rare earth metals (alloys), up 146% to 3,400 t; other rare earth compounds, up 95.3% to 3,300 t; and ferrocerium (alloys), down 27.7% to 2,500 t. Exports of thorium ore (monazite or various thorium materials) skyrocketed to 30 t, a significant increase over the 2010 level of 1 t.

Exploration efforts to develop rare earth projects continued to surge in 2011, and investment and interest increased dramatically. Economic assessments continued in North America at Bear Lodge, Wyo.; Diamond Creek, Idaho; Elk Creek, Neb.; Hoidas Lake, Saskatchewan; Kipawa, Quebec; Lemhi Pass, Idaho-Montana; and Nechalacho (Thor Lake), Northwest Territories. Economic assessments in other locations around the world include Dubbo Zirconia, New South Wales, Australia; Kangankunde, Malawi; Mount Weld, Western Australia; Nolans Project in Northern Territory, Australia; and Steenkampskraal, Western Cape, South Africa.

Table 3 shows worldwide rare earth mine production.


According to The Freedonia Group, global demand for industrial silica sand is projected to grow 4.8% annually to 280 Mt tons in 2016, with a value of $9.2 billion. Glass production and foundries will continue to be the largest markets, although faster gains will be registered by the developing hydraulic fracturing sector. The Asia-Pacific region will account for the largest share of additional silica sand demand, driven by a healthy outlook for construction and foundry output, particularly in China and India. Outside of Asia, the best opportunities are expected in the large U.S. market, which is benefiting from its current dominance of hydraulic fracturing activity, as well as a rebound in construction and motor vehicle production.

The glass market accounted for 36% of total 2011 industrial sand usage worldwide, and Freedonia expects that it will provide the largest net gain in sand demand through 2016. Container glass sand usage will register starkly different trends for developed and developing countries. In developed markets, especially those in Europe and the U.S., the increasing use of recycled materials in glass production and weak-to-declining container output will continue to sharply reduce raw sand requirements.

In contrast, markets in China and other developing countries will see above-average gains (see Table 4). Demand in the foundry sector, which runs a close second to glass in market share, will improve significantly based on a general improvement in the global economic outlook and strong growth in motor vehicle production. The fastest overall gains in foundry sand demand will be in China and South America; demand growth in most other markets will also accelerate due to improved economic conditions.14

Apparent U.S. consumption of industrial sand and gravel in 2011 rose slightly to 26.3 Mt (up from 26.1 Mt in 2010). Production also increased, up 3.4% to 30 Mt. About 41% of the U.S. tonnage was used as hydraulic fracturing sand and well-packing and cementing sand, 26% as glassmaking sand, 11% as foundry sand, 6% as other whole-grain silica, 6% as whole-grain fillers and building products, 3% as ground and unground sand for chemicals, 2% as golf course sand, 2% for abrasive sand for sandblasting, and 3% for other uses. U.S. imports for consumption shot up by 113.7% to 280,000 t; exports posted more modest gains, rising 1.3% to 4 Mt.

Soda Ash

Based on final 2010 reported data, the estimated 2011 U.S. distribution of soda ash by end use was: glass, 48%; chemicals, 29%; soap and detergents, 10%; distributors, 5%; flue gas desulfurization, 4%; miscellaneous uses and pulp and paper, 2% each; and water treatment, less than 1%. Apparent consumption of soda ash in the U.S. was flat at 5.2 Mt.

Domestic production of soda ash remained relatively flat (10.7 Mt vs. 10.6 Mt in 2010). Imports for consumption increased by 25% to 25,000 t, while exports gained 1.9% to reach 5.5 Mt.

The global soda ash industry continued to recover from worldwide economic problems. Domestic residential and commercial construction, as well as the automotive industry, increased glass usage and affected soda ash consumption worldwide. Increased demand for soda ash prompted U.S. producers to raise sales prices by $10/ton in May and by $15/ton in November. The U.S. soda ash export association raised the export price by $50/ton in July, citing increased demand.

The largest domestic soda ash producer restarted its mothballed plant in Granger, Wyo., at mid-year. Annual production capacity was expected to be 500,000 t in 2010, ramping up to 1.2 Mt by 2014. Additional soda ash ventures were announced throughout the world in anticipation of growing demand. A chemical complex was planned near Walvis Bay in Namibia to produce soda ash, sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid. The construction of a soda ash facility was also announced at Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to support the country’s growing glass industry. The operation was scheduled to produce 500,000 t per year when completed.

Economic conditions are improving in many parts of the world. Overall global demand for soda ash is expected to grow from 1.5-2% annually for the next several years, with most of the growth expected to be in China, India, Russia and South America.

Talc and Pyrophyllite

The talc and pyrophyllite industries continued to be hampered by the slow economic recovery in the U.S. While some industry sectors (e.g., automotive and general manufacturing) improved slightly in 2011, housing remained stagnant, affecting sales for applications such as adhesives, caulks, ceramics, joint compounds, paint and roofing. 

In 2011, talc produced and sold in the U.S. was used for: ceramics, 24%; paper, 22%; paint, 19%; roofing, 10%; plastics, 9%; cosmetics, 4%; rubber, 2% and other, 10%. Domestic talc production was estimated to be 615,000 t (an increase of 1.8% over 2010), with a value of $20 million. The total estimated use of talc in the U.S. (including imports) was: plastics, 26%; ceramics, 17%; paint, 16%; paper, 16%; cosmetics, 7%; roofing, 6%; rubber, 3%; and other, 9%.

Apparent U.S. talc consumption reached 670,000 t (up 7.7%). Imports for consumption climbed by 13.6% to 275,000 t, while exports increased 1.8% to 220,000 t.
Sales of pyrophyllite were likely to have increased slightly for refractory products in 2011. The slow recovery of industries that use pyrophyllite to manufacture ceramics and paints limited further sales growth.

According to Merchant Research & Consulting, the worldwide talc and pyrophyllite industry is expected to show a healthy increase, reaching extensive growth levels by 2017. The market rise will be fueled primarily by the demand from the global automotive industry. China is the largest producer of talc and pyrophyllite, with a 27.7% market share. South Korea follows, with 9.8% of the world’s total.15

Titanium and Related Materials

U.S. production of titanium mineral concentrates increased by 50% in 2011, reaching 300,000 t. Exports jumped 66.6%, to 20,000 t, while imports for consumption increased more modestly (14.8%), to reach 1.1 Mt. Apparent consumption reached approximately 1.6 Mt, an increase of 8.2% over 2010 levels. About 95% of titanium mineral concentrates was consumed by domestic titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment producers; the remaining 5% was used in welding rod coatings and for manufacturing carbides, chemicals, and metal.

Domestic TiO2 production reached 1.4 Mt in 2011, an increase of 7.6% over the prior year. Apparent consumption increased slightly to 785,000 t (up 2.3%). In 2011, TiO2 pigment was produced by four companies at six facilities in five states, and valued at approximately $3.8 billion. The estimated use of TiO2 pigment by end use was: paint (including lacquers and varnishes), 57%; plastic, 27%; paper, 10%; and other, 6%. Other uses included catalysts, ceramics, coated fabrics and textiles, floor coverings, printing ink, and roofing granules.

TZ Minerals International Pty. Ltd. reports that 2011 worldwide production of TiO2 pigment increased by 3.5% (on a pro forma basis), due to increased demand as consumers restocked their supply chains and some consumers bought ahead of their requirements to limit their risk of potential limited availabilities. Chinese producers led the production growth with a 14.5% year-over-year increase in output. Growth during the last five years had been led by emerging economies (most notably China), the Asia-Pacific region, Brazil, Turkey Russia and India. Consumption in the mature economies of Western Europe and North America has remained flat or declined slightly.16


According to GIA, the global market for zirconium is forecast to reach 2.6 Mt by 2017. Burgeoning demand from the Asia-Pacific region, including China, along with growing ceramic tile production activity across the world, represent key factors for growth. Growth in the Asia-Pacific is projected at 15.3% over the analysis period.

The U.S. continues to be the largest producer and consumer of fused zirconia, reports GIA, while Japan is the second-largest consumer. Ceramics, including tableware, sanitaryware and tile, represents the largest end-use market for zirconium; the refractory and foundry sectors represent the other leading markets. Zircon is used as an opacifier for ceramic products, as well as a glass component in television and computer monitor faceplates. Ceramics is expected to retain its supremacy as the largest consumer, while use in the TV glass sector will be tempered due to consumers’ increasing preference for new display methods (e.g., liquid crystal displays) over cathode ray tubes (CRT). Opportunities are also available in the development of advanced materials. Zircon refractory brick are increasingly being replaced with fused zirconia-based products.17

Merchant Research & Consulting reports that the demand for zirconium and hafnium is expected to grow approximately 4% annually. Oxide and silicate minerals exploration is a key factor influencing production growth, since both contain zirconium and hafnium. Australia controls more than 40% of the global zirconium volume, while 32% is supplied by South Africa.18

Increased zircon production, primarily in China, resulted in dramatic price increases for zircon in 2011. Prices, which began to rise in 2010, reach record-high levels in 2011. Global production of zirconium concentrates (excluding the U.S.) increased significantly with that of 2010 (see Table 5).

U.S. imports of zirconium ores and concentrates (zirconia content) decreased by 8.7% to 13,600 t, while exports dropped nearly 50% to 15,500 t. Zirconia imports were also down (by 2.4% to 2,850 t), but exports increased by 11% to reach 6,250 t. c

Editor’s note: The foregoing information, except where noted, was compiled from the U.S. Geological Survey ( All units are in metric tons except where otherwise noted. In most cases, 2011 data were the latest available (and often estimated). For additional details regarding the uses of these materials in the ceramic, glass and related industries, visit the Materials Handbook.

1. World Abrasives (published February 2012, $6,100), The Freedonia Group, Inc.,
2. Antimony: Global Industry Markets & Outlook (published September 2012, $5,800), Roskill Information Services Ltd.,
3. Bauxite and Alumina Market Review (published January 2012, $990), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,
4. Ibid.
5. Boron Market Review (published July 2012, $990), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,
6. World Kaolin (published February 2012, $5,900), The Freedonia Group, Inc.,
7. Feldspar and Nepheline Syenite: A Global Strategic Business Report (published May 2012, $4,500), Global Industry Analysts, Inc.,
8. Fluorspar: A Global Strategic Business Report (published February 2012, $4,500), Global Industry Analysts, Inc.,
9. Natural & Synthetic Graphite: Global Industry Markets & Outlook (published October 2012, $5,800), Roskill Information Services Ltd.,
10. Manganese: Global Industry Markets & Outlook (published January 2012, $5,800), Roskill Information Services Ltd.,
11. Molybdenum: Market Outlook to 2016 (published July 2012, $7,500), Roskill Information Services Ltd.,
12. Molybdenum Market Review (published January 2012, $1,290), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,
13. Tantalum and Niobium (Columbium) Market Review (published November 2012, $1,190), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,
14. World Industrial Silica Sand (published October 2012, $5,900), The Freedonia Group, Inc.,
15. Talc and Pyropyllite Market Review (published March 2012, $890), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,
16. Global TiO2 Pigment Producers Comparative Cost and Profitability Study, TZ Minerals International Pty. Ltd.,
17. Zirconium: A Global Strategic Business Report (published May 2012, $4,500), Global Industry Analysts, Inc.,
18. Zirconium and Hafnium Market Review (published January 2012, $1,390), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,

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