Advanced Ceramics / CI Advanced Features / Glass / Raw and Processed Materials

Raw & Manufactured Materials: 2014 Overview

Recovering construction markets are providing opportunities for some traditional ceramic materials, while new and expanding technical applications are helping to drive advanced materials.

January 2, 2014
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Manufactured Abrasives Bauxite and Alumina Boron Minerals Clays Feldspar
Fluorspar Graphite Gypsum Magnesium Compounds Molybdenum
Niobium and Tantalum Rare Earths Silica Soda Ash Talc and Pyrophyllite
  Titanium and Related Materials Zirconium    


Manufactured Abrasives

According to a recent report from BCC Research, the global market value of the abrasive grains segment of the worldwide abrasives market was $8.9 billion in 2011. The market is expected to reach $10.9 billion by 2017, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.4% over the 2011-2017 period. (The growth of the abrasive tools market will be slightly faster, at a CAGR of 5% through 2017, growing from $24.5 billion in 2011 to $32.9 billion in 2017.) Several unique and novel technologies are starting to make inroads into the otherwise mundane and mature abrasive products and technology market. BCC expects that the next several decades will witness the influence of these novel technologies on the market and create a new industrial landscape for these products.1

Botswana became the leader of the natural industrial diamond market in 2012, according to Merchant Research, supplying 30.8% of the total output. Natural diamond is also mined in Congo (20.5%), Russia (19.2%), Australia (10.3%) and other countries. China remained the leader in synthetic industrial diamond production with a 91.5% market share.2

In the U.S. and Canada, production of regular-grade fused aluminum oxide continued to be flat in 2012 at 10,000 t; its value declined to approximately $1.7 million (vs. $1.9 million the prior year). Imports for consumption declined by 13.5% to 193,000 t, while exports were down a more modest 2% to 19,500 t.

Production of silicon carbide in the U.S. and Canada also remained flat in 2012, at 35,000 t. However, silicon carbide production retained its prior estimated value of $26 million. Imports for consumption were down 12.4% to 113,000 t, and exports plummeted 31.7% to 19,000 t. Apparent consumption of silicon carbide declined 4.4% to 130,000 t. Bonded and coated abrasive products accounted for most abrasive uses of fused aluminum oxide and silicon carbide in the U.S. and Canada.


Bauxite and Alumina

The shape and dynamics of the global bauxite and alumina industry are changing, according to a report from Roskill Information Services. New alumina refining and bauxite production capacity will boost supply over the next five years to meet the rising demand for aluminum, mainly from China, but also other growth areas such as the Middle East and India. The influence of China has changed the dynamics of the bauxite and alumina markets; this will continue over the next five years.

Roskill reports that world production of bauxite and alumina is growing. Global alumina production increased from 80 to 96 Mt between 2007 and 2011, with most of the supply increase from China, which is now the largest producer. More refinery capacity is planned over the next three years, with another 14 Mt in China alone. If it is all commissioned as scheduled, then the market will be oversupplied in the short term until demand from the aluminum industry catches up.

Australia is the largest producer of bauxite, according to Roskill, accounting for nearly 70 Mt in 2011; production in China, Indonesia and India has grown. Asia now accounts for 45% of global supply, compared with 16% a decade ago. This growth in non-captive bauxite production has led to sharp increases in shipped and traded bauxites, changing the dynamics of the marketplace. Domestic supply issues are pushing Chinese alumina producers to source their bauxite overseas, often in the form of joint venture companies or acquisitions. New operations and projects are underway in countries such as Australia, Guinea, Ghana, Indonesia and Fiji.

The growth in Chinese demand for bauxite has seen a significant rise in imports over the last five years, mainly from Indonesia but also from Australia, reports Roskill. Total Chinese imports have risen from 9 Mt in 2006 to 45 Mt in 2011. In early 2012, the Indonesian government shook the industry by announcing curbs on exports of unprocessed minerals, which is being phased in over the next two years. As a result, Indonesian bauxite exports to China fell to an estimated 28 Mt, down from 36 Mt in 2011. This will provide opportunities for other bauxite producers currently planning expansions and new projects in other countries to step in.

Concerns remain in the industry over the availability and security of supply of calcined bauxites, according to Roskill, as there are relatively few producers. Calcined bauxites are used principally in the refractories and abrasives industries. New sources of supply and expansions in Guyana and Brazil may ease fears of future shortages going forward. European supply of non-metallurgical bauxites has increased over the last five years, mainly through growing production in Greece, Turkey and Russia. Both bauxite and alumina are used for non-metallurgical applications, and in these sectors growth prospects are more mixed. Refractory-grade bauxite is predicted to have moderate growth over the next five years, largely linked to the fortunes of the iron and steel industry, while markets such as proppants will exhibit a stronger growth profile due to the expansion of shale gas production.

Roskill reports that uncertainty over future bauxite supplies from Indonesia to supply the growing Chinese demand is driving interest in new bauxite projects elsewhere, particularly Australia. In early 2013, the Queensland Government announced a shortlist of five bidders for the Aurukum Bauxite resource on the Cape York Peninsula, which includes key players in the bauxite industry: Rio Tinto, Chalco (Aluminium Corp. of China) and Glencore International. The other bidders are two consortia: Australia Indigenous Resources Ltd. and the Cape Alumina Consortium. The project was previously won by Chalco, but the development agreement for a 6.5 Mt per year bauxite mine and 2.1 Mt per year alumina refinery lapsed in 2010. It fell apart under the economic climate and the state’s insistence that both the mine and refinery were required. Options for large- or small-scale developments are now being considered, however. A decision on the future of the project was expected by the end of 2013.3

In the U.S., 2012 imports of alumina were 1.9 Mt, a decline of 18.9% from the previous year. Alumina exports were up slightly (2.5%) and reached nearly 1.7 Mt. Imports of bauxite for consumption increased 3.7% to 11.1 Mt, while exports dropped by 30.7% to 52,000 t. U.S. apparent consumption of both bauxite and alumina declined by 4.7% in 2012, to 2.6 Mt.


Boron Minerals

According to a report from Merchant Research, worldwide production of borates increased slightly in 2012, while consumption is expected to rise, fueled by the ceramic, agricultural, and glass markets of Asia and Latin America. An overall shift in the consumption pattern is expected: more borates are needed in ceramics and glass, while less is required by detergent manufacturers. The U.S. is the leader in the boron market, producing 20.7% of the world total. Argentina and Chile follow with 10.3% and 8.6% shares, respectively.4

The four borates (colemanite, kernite, tincal and ulexite) make up 90% of the borates used by industry worldwide. Although borates were used in more than 300 applications, more than three-quarters of the world’s supply is sold into four end uses: ceramics, detergents, fertilizer and glass.

Global production and reserves reached 4.6 Mt in 2012, a 1.1% increase over the previous year. World consumption of borates is projected to reach 2 Mt of B2O3 by 2014, compared with 1.5 Mt in 2010. Because China has low-grade boron reserves and demand for boron is expected to rise in that country, Chinese imports from Chile, Russia, Turkey and the U.S. are expected to increase during the next several years.

European and emerging markets are requiring more stringent building standards with respect to heat conservation. Consequently, increased consumption for borates used in fiber glass insulation is expected. Boron consumption in the global fiber glass industry is projected to increase 7% annually through 2013, spurred particularly by a 19% increase in Chinese consumption. Continued investment in new refineries and technologies, as well as the continued rise in demand, are expected to fuel growth in worldwide production during the next several years.



Clay and shale production was reported in 40 U.S. states in 2012, with about 180 companies operating approximately 750 clay pits or quarries. Table 1 details domestic 2012 production by clay type.

Sales or use of all types of clay sold or used in the U.S. were estimated to be 25.7 Mt valued at $1.57 billion. Apparent U.S. consumption of clays increased slightly (1.9%) in 2012 to 21.7 Mt. Uses for specific clays were estimated as follows:

•  Ball clay—38% floor and wall tile, 20% sanitaryware, 42% other uses

•  Bentonite—30% drilling mud, 27% absorbents, 14% iron ore pelletizing, 16% foundry sand bond, 13% other uses

•  Common clay—46% brick, 24% lightweight aggregate, 20% cement, 10% other uses

•  Fire clay—57% heavy clay products, 43% refractory products and other uses

•  Fuller’s earth—75% absorbent uses, 25% other uses

•  Kaolin—50% paper and 50% other uses

Increased commercial and residential housing construction is likely to result in slightly increased sales of common clay and fire clay for heavy clay products, and ball clay for ceramic tile and sanitaryware manufacturing. Kaolin production is likely to increase slightly as ceramic markets increase and paper markets stabilize.

Merchant Research reports that worldwide bentonite demand may increase in the near future as commercial and residential housing construction is booming. The supply of bentonite, however, is on a slight downward trend. The price is relatively stable; no significant fluctuation was recorded for the last two years, but the trend is upward. Due to stiff supplies and increasing demand, the price might go up in 2013-2014. The U.S. is the leader in the bentonite market, supplying 48% of the total output. Turkey holds the second position with a 10% share.5

The growing ceramic and paper markets benefit kaolin supply growth, according to Merchant Research, although in 2012 the volume was only slightly higher than that of 2011. The beginning of 2012 brought light improvement in kaolin prices, but afterwards they remained flat. The kaolin market is not expected to boom in the coming years, and there is no base for any significant price increase. The U.S. is the market leader with a 17.4% share, closely followed by Uzbekistan with 16.2%. Additional major producers include Germany (13.2%), Czech Republic (10.6%) and Brazil (6.6%).6

U.S. exports of clays in 2012 remained flat at 4.6 Mt, and included: ball clay, 70,000 t (up 42.9%); bentonite, 1 Mt (down 2%); fire clay, 280,000 t (down 24.5%); Fuller’s earth, 95,000 t (down 9.5%); kaolin, 2.6 Mt (up 3.2%); and clays not elsewhere classified, 590,000 (up 4.4%).



Glass, including beverage containers and insulation for housing and building construction, continued to be the leading end user of feldspar in the U.S. in 2012. Most feldspar consumed by the glass industry is for the container glass industry, which was moderately stable. Competing packaging materials in some market segments, such as baby food, fruit juices, mineral water and wine, along with a recent trend to import less expensive containers from China, continued to present challenges. In addition, the increasing use of post-consumer glass collected through local government and neighborhood recycling programs continued to provide additional competition for traditional raw materials like feldspar.

While the worldwide economic recovery from the 2008-2009 recession continued to be slow, the gradual improvements of 2010-2011 continued in 2012. Residential flat glass markets improved slightly but remained somewhat sluggish. Housing starts and completions were expected to continue to increase during 2012. Spending on commercial construction increased by 20% in the first eight months of 2012; automotive glass markets also increased.

U.S. imports for consumption of feldspar remained flat at 2,000 t, while exports jumped 29.4% to 22,000 t. Apparent consumption was down 3.9% to 610,000 t. Domestic marketable production of feldspar decreased by 3.1% in 2012, to 630,000 t.

According to Merchant Research, Italy became the largest feldspar producer in 2012, supplying 24.7% of the total output. Turkey appeared in second place, with a 21.1% share.7



Apparent U.S. consumption of fluorspar in 2012 declined by 10% to 605,000 t. It was used in hydrofluoric acid (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. Imports for consumption declined by 14.7% to 620,000 t, while exports were down 12.5% to 21,000 t.

Roskill reports that trade patterns, supply sources and the corporate landscape are changing in the fluorspar industry. One of the major influences in the fluorspar industry is increasing Chinese domestic consumption, which has grown at a 9% CAGR between 2000 and 2012, compared with an average global growth rate of 3.4%.

In 2012, world fluorspar production was an estimated 6.2 Mt per year, according to Roskill, of which nearly 4 Mt per year is in the form of acidspar consumed primarily in the chemical and aluminum industries. The remainder is lower grade metspar, mainly used in the steel industry as a flux. One growth area for fluorspar is in aluminum fluoride production, which has increased in volume over the last 10 years, mirroring the growth in global aluminum output. However, aluminum fluoride is also produced from fluorosilicic acid, which competes with fluorspar and accounts for around 18% of the market requirement.

The corporate landscape is also shifting, reports Roskill. Twelve mining companies now account for around 56% of total fluorspar mining capacity, and the industry is becoming more vertically integrated through joint ventures and acquisitions.8



Although natural graphite was not produced in the U.S. in 2012, approximately 90 U.S. firms (primarily in the Northeastern and Great Lakes regions) used it for a variety of applications. In decreasing order by tonnage, the major domestic uses of natural graphite included: refractories, steelmaking, brake linings, foundry operations, batteries and lubricants. These uses consumed 70% of the total natural graphite used during 2012. Apparent U.S. consumption dropped by 24.2% to 50,000 t in 2012.

Imports for consumption also declined, to 56,000 t (down 22.2%), while exports remained flat at 6,000 t. Principal U.S. import sources of natural graphite were (in descending order of tonnage): China, Mexico, Canada, Brazil and Madagascar. Combined, these countries accounted for 97% of the tonnage and 90% of the value of total U.S. imports.

According to Merchant Research, the improvement of the global economy in general and graphite-consuming industries in particular led to higher demand for graphite in 2012. It is expected that new technologies that enable the production of higher purity graphite powders will further fuel graphite demand from high-tech industries. China dominates the market with 68.2% share, while India is second with 6.8%.9

The market for recycled refractory graphite material is growing, with material being recycled into products such as brake linings and thermal insulation. Refractory brick and linings, alumina-graphite refractories for continuous metal castings, magnesia-graphic refractory brick for basic oxygen and electric arc furnaces, and insulation brick led the way in the recycling of graphite products.



Approximately 90% of domestic consumption of gypsum in 2012, which totaled around 22 Mt, was used by manufacturers of wallboard and plaster products. Approximately 1.5 Mt for cement production and agricultural applications, as well as small amounts of high-purity gypsum for a range of industrial processes, accounted for the remaining tonnage. Demand for gypsum depends principally on the strength of the construction industry, particularly in the U.S., where about 95% of consumed gypsum is used for building plasters, the manufacture of Portland cement, and wallboard products.

U.S. gypsum production increased 11% in 2012 as the housing and construction markets increased in activity. Apparent consumption rose 3.8% to 24.6 Mt. Gypsum imports rose slightly (2.1%) to 3.4 Mt, while exports jumped 58.2% to 500,000 t.

China provided more than five times the amount of gypsum produced in the U.S., which is ranked fourth. Iran is thought to rank second in world production and supplied much of the gypsum needed for construction in the Middle East. Spain, the leading European producer, ranked third in the world and supplied crude gypsum and gypsum products to much of Western Europe.

The dynamics of gypsum supply are changing, according to Roskill. China remains the world’s largest producer of natural gypsum, accounting for 25% of mined supply in 2012. By 2017, Roskill forecasts that flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) gypsum could contribute an even larger proportion of world supply. Overall, Roskill forecasts that the gypsum market will increase by 5% per year until 2017.10


Magnesium Compounds

Roskill reports that a potential sea-change in magnesia supply is on the horizon. China, the world’s largest producer, is undergoing a modernization plan that will eliminate much of its older technology and excess capacity. Simultaneously, the international market is reducing its dependence on Chinese exports. New projects in the rest of the world could add up to 1.8 Mt per year of all types of magnesia capacity between 2011 and 2015, up to 500,000 t per year of which has already come online.

Almost all dead burned magnesia (DbM) and fused magnesia (FM) is consumed in the refractories sector, according to Roskill, and a substantial proportion of investment into magnesia capacity has been made by multinational refractory groups such as RHI AG, Magnezit group and Magnesita Refratários. In response to increasing prices and tightening supplies from China, these and other refractory groups have targeted partial or complete self-sufficiency in their magnesia requirements. Magnesia exports from China are subject to a number of conditions imposed by the government. These include an export quota, export tax and export license fee. Such conditions have encouraged higher domestic magnesia consumption, in favor of exporting high-value finished goods such as refractory products. Chinese production of refractories is now the largest in the world, accounting for 28.2 Mt out of 40.4 Mt in 2012.

The most important demand driver for magnesia is the refractories industry, reports Roskill, which is strongly linked to the fortunes of the iron and steel industry. Other important market sectors include agriculture and environmental applications for caustic calcined magnesia (CCM) and, in terms of growth, flame retardants for magnesium hydroxide. Overall, magnesia consumption is forecast to grow 3.2% per year until 2018. Future demand for CCM is expected to show the strongest growth rates, followed by more modest growth for refractory grades.11

In the U.S., approximately 55% of the magnesium compounds consumed in 2012 was used for refractories; the remaining 45% was used in agricultural, chemical, construction, environmental and industrial applications. U.S. production of magnesium compounds declined slightly (2%) to 300,000 t, while apparent consumption was down at a more significant 8.1% to 553,000 t. Imports for consumption and exports both declined, to 270,000 t (down 14.6%) and 17,000 t (-15%), respectively.



Despite strong demand for molybdenum in 2012, prices declined by approximately 6%, reports Merchant Research. China’s rapid industrial growth was the main driver for molybdenum consumption during the past decade. Now that the Chinese economy is showing signs of a slowdown, the situation in the molybdenum market will be determined by other developing economies like India. Global demand for the compound is expected to increase 4.6% annually until 2016. China supplies 42% of the world’s molybdenum volume. The U.S. occupies the second position with a 22.8% share.12

U.S. production of molybdenum in 2012 declined by 10.5% to 57,000 t (valued at approximately $1.7 billion), and apparent consumption was down as well (by 6.8%, to 45,000 t). Imports for consumption remained basically flat at 21,000 t, while exports declined by 4% to 34,000 t.

Molybdenum ore was produced as a primary product at four mines (one each in Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico), while eight copper mines (four in Arizona, and one each in Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah) recovered molybdenum as a byproduct. Three roasting plants converted molybdenite concentrate to molybdic acid, from which intermediate products such as ferromolybdenum, metal powder and various chemicals were produced. Iron and steel and superalloy producers accounted for about 76% of the molybdenum consumed.


Niobium and Tantalum

No significant U.S. mine production for niobium or tantalum has been reported since 1959. Companies in the U.S. produced ferroniobium and niobium compounds, metal, and other alloys from imported niobium minerals, oxides, and ferroniobium. Niobium was consumed mostly in the form of ferroniobium by the steel industry and as niobium alloys and metal by the aerospace industry. Apparent consumption declined by 3.9% to 8,800 t. Major end-use distribution of reported niobium consumption was: steels, 58%; and superalloys, 42%. The estimated value of niobium consumption in 2011 was $424 million; this was expected to be about $500 million in 2012 (based on the value of imports).

U.S. niobium exports increased by 18.5% in 2012 to 430,000 t. Imports for consumption were down 3.2% to 9,200 t. The leading suppliers of niobium in ore and concentrate were Australia (54%), Mozambique (13%), and Canada and Brazil (10% each).

Tantalum was consumed in the U.S. mostly in the form of alloys, compounds, fabricated forms, ingot and metal powder. Tantalum capacitors were estimated to account for more than 60% of tantalum use. Major end uses for tantalum capacitors include automotive electronics, personal computers, and portable telephones. The value of tantalum consumed in 2011 was estimated at $219 million; the 2012 estimate is more than $290 million (based on the value of imports).

Apparent U.S. consumption of tantalum in 2012 plummeted by 58.7% to 500 t. Imports for consumption also saw a steep drop, by 45.9% to 1,000 t, while exports declined by 22.8% to 500 t.


Rare Earths

Rare earth elements (REEs) are used in the integrated circuits that are found in most electronics, including smartphones, radar technologies and missile guidance systems, reports Red Mountain Insights. These elements are critical to civilian and military high-technology applications. Although reserves are abundant, it is difficult to find them in sufficient concentrations where they can be profitably mined and processed. The process of extracting and processing rare earth elements into alloys and permanent magnets is labor and capital intensive.

According to Red Mountain Insights, though rare earth element resources are distributed across the world (36% located in China and 13% in the U.S.), their production is dominated by China, which produces 97% of all REEs. In an effort to control the global market for rare earth elements, China recently instituted production and export quotas to monopolize the market, and is practicing price control by limiting the supply available for export to other countries. In 2010, prices soared as China imposed severe export quotas on these minerals, basically removing them from the global marketplace. China asserts that it imposed the limits on environmental grounds. China did not place equal restrictions on domestic producers, however. The artificial export restraint resulted in triple-digit increases in the worldwide prices of rare earth minerals. The intended result of China’s policy is that manufacturers have incentive to base production in China. Technology-intensive companies are now incentivized to move their factories to China where these minerals are relatively cheap and accessible.

Over the next decade, reports Red Mountain Insights, demand for rare earths is expected to be driven largely by a continued shift to energy-efficient green products, increased use of mobile electronics, and electric vehicles. In the U.S., the rare earths sector is likely to remain very volatile in 2012. Outside of China, the rest of the world continues to work toward securing rare earths production capacity, but still experiences delays and high capital costs. Despite these difficulties, the exploration of non-China-based REEs is growing. Scientists are also working to develop alternative technologies that would replace components that use rare earth elements.13

The production of bastnasite concentrates was launched in the U.S. (California) in 2012, with an initial 7,000 t output (see Table 2). U.S. exports of rare earths declined across the board in 2012: cerium compounds, down 32.9% to 1,100 t; rare earth metals (alloys), down 43.9% to 1,700 t; other rare earth compounds, down 47.5% to 1,900 t; and ferrocerium (alloys), down 57.2% to 860 t.

Imports of rare earths saw mixed results in 2012 compared to the previous year: cerium compounds, up 7.1% to 1,200 t; ferrocerium alloys, up 131.2% to 430 t; mixed rare earth chlorides, up 41.4% to 540 t; mixed rare earth oxides, down 73.8% to 480 t; rare earth oxide compounds, down 28.4% to 2,700 t; rare earth metals (alloy), down 40.2% to 280 t; and thorium ore, up 41.2% to 24 t. The estimated value of refined rare earths imported in the U.S. was $615 million, down from $802 million in 2011. Based on reported data through August 2012, the estimated distribution of rare earths by end use (in decreasing order) was: catalysts, 62%; metallurgical applications and alloys, 13%; glass polishing and ceramics, 9%; permanent magnets, 7%; phosphors, 3%; and other, 6%.



Industrial sand and gravel, often called silica, silica sand, and quartz sand, includes sands and gravels with high silicon dioxide (SiO2) content. These sands are used in glassmaking; for foundry, abrasive, and hydraulic fracturing (frac) applications; and for many other industrial uses. The specifications for each use vary, but silica resources for most uses are abundant. In almost all cases, silica mining uses open pit or dredging mining methods with standard mining equipment. Except for temporarily disturbing the immediate area while mining operations are active, sand and gravel mining usually has limited environmental impact. The U.S. was the world’s leading producer and consumer of industrial sand and gravel in 2012, based on estimated world production figures (see Table 3).

Industrial sand and gravel valued at about $2.2 billion was produced by 87 companies from 159 operations in 33 U.S. states in 2012, including (in order of produced tonnage): Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arkansas, Missouri, Michigan and Oklahoma. Combined production from these states represented 73% of the domestic total. Total U.S. production increased by 13.3% to 49.5 Mt in 2012. Imports for consumption of industrial sand and gravel decreased by 11.4% to 280,000 t, while exports rose 8.5% to 4.7 Mt.

Apparent consumption in the U.S. increased by 13.6% to 45.1 Mt. Uses included: as hydraulic fracturing, well-packing and cementing sand, 57%; glassmaking sand, 17%; foundry sand, 11%; whole-grain fillers and building products, 4%; other whole-grain silica, 2%; ground and unground sand for chemicals, 2%; golf course sand, 1%; abrasive sand for sandblasting, 1%; and other uses, 5%.


Soda Ash

The total value of domestic soda ash (sodium carbonate) produced in 2012 was estimated to be $1.6 billion. The U.S. produced 10.9 Mt of soda ash in 2012, an increase of 1.9%. Apparent consumption declined by 4.2% to 5 Mt. Based on final 2011 reported data, the estimated 2012 distribution of soda ash by end use was: glass, 48%; chemicals, 29%; soap and detergents, 8%; distributors, 6%; flue gas desulfurization and miscellaneous uses, 3% each; pulp and paper, 2%; and water treatment, 1%.

Overall global demand for soda ash is expected to increase 1.5-2% annually for the next several years, with most of the growth expected to be in China, India, Russia and South America. If the domestic economy and export sales improve, U.S. production may be higher in 2013. If the reports about a new trona discovery in China are confirmed, China may become the lowest cost soda ash producer in Asia, and a strong competitor with the U.S. in the Far East soda ash markets.

According to Merchant Research, China is the largest global producer and supplier of soda ash, followed by the U.S. The production volume in China is mainly driven by high domestic demand. The share of the U.S. in the world total production volume has decreased in last four years because of the economic crisis in North America. 14


Talc and Pyrophyllite

Domestic talc production increased slightly in 2012 (1.1%) and was estimated to be 250,000 t valued at $22 million. Montana was the leading producer state, followed by Texas and Vermont. Sales of talc were basically flat compared to the previous year, and were estimated to be 571,000 t valued at $90 million.

Apparent U.S. consumption of talc in 2012 declined by 3.1% to 633,000 t.Talc produced and sold in the U.S. was used for: ceramics, 26%; paint and paper, 20% each; plastics and roofing, 9% each; cosmetics, 4%; rubber, 3%; and other, 9%.

About 260,000 t of talc was imported (down 3.7%); more than 75% of imported talc was used for plastics, cosmetics and paint applications (in decreasing order of tonnage). The total estimated use of talc in the U.S. (with imported talc included) was: plastics, 26%; ceramics, 17%; paint, 16%; paper, 15%; cosmetics and roofing, 6% each; rubber, 3%; and other, 11%. Canada and China supplied more than 80% of the talc imported into the U.S.

U.S. talc exports increased by 7.3% in 2012, to 250,000 t. Mexico and Canada accounted for 31% and 28%, respectively, of U.S. talc exports. Japan and France also contributed to the increase in U.S. talc exports.

Sales of talc and pyrophyllite to the ceramic and paint industries did not grow significantly in 2012 due to the slow recovery of those sectors, reports Merchant Research. In May 2012, prices popped up by 36-58%, depending on the grade of the compound. China is the leading talc and pyrophyllite producer with a 28.9% share. Brazil, India, the U.S. and South Korea supply 8.7%, 8.7%, 8.2% and 7% of the total output, respectively.15


Titanium and Related Materials

Two firms produced ilmenite and rutile concentrations from surface mining operations in Florida and Virginia in 2012. Zircon was a coproduct of mining from ilmenite and rutile deposits. The value of titanium mineral concentrates consumed in the U.S. in 2012 was about $735 million; estimated consumption increased by 7.6% to 1.4 Mt. 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. Imports for consumption of titanium mineral concentrates increased by 7.8% to 1.1 Mt, while exports rose 12.5% to 18,000 t.

In 2012, TiO2 pigment valued at about $3.9 billion was produced by four companies at six facilities in five states. The estimated use of TiO2 by end use was: paint (including lacquers and varnishes), 59%; plastic, 28%; paper, 9%; and other, 4%. (“Other” includes catalysts, ceramics, coated fabrics and textiles, floor coverings, printing ink, and roofing granules.) U.S. production remained basically flat at 1.3 Mt for 2012. Imports for consumption gained 8% to reach 216,000 t, while exports dropped 14.6% to 674,000 t.

Global consumption of TiO2pigment was expected to be down in 2012 due to rising feedstock prices, depressed economic conditions in Europe and China, and the depletion of existing stocks. Consumption and production was led by China; several TiO2pigment producers in China suspended production as a result of reduced market demand.



According to Merchant Research, the world leader in zirconium and hafnium production is Australia, which supplies 40.1% of the total output. South Africa is second with 26.3% of the market share, while China follows with a 9.9% share. World volumes of zirconium concentrates declined in 2012 due to weak demand. The Chinese economic slowdown affected the housing construction market, and this trend will continue in 2013. Prices are therefore expected to remain low compared to the beginning of 2011.16

Ceramics, foundry applications, opacifiers and refractories are the leading end uses for zircon. Other end uses include abrasives, chemicals, metal alloys and welding rod coatings. U.S. imports of zirconium ores and concentrates (zirconia content) jumped 51.2% to 26,000 t in 2012, while imports of zirconia gained 65.6% to reach 5,000 t. Exports of zirconium ores and concentrates (zirconia content) also increased, by 32.9% to reach 21,000 t. However, exports of zirconia dropped by 10.6% to 6,000 t. Global production of zirconium concentrates (excluding the U.S.) decreased significantly with that of 2011 (see Table 4).

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, 2012 data were the latest available (and often estimated). For additional details regarding the uses of these materials in the ceramic, glass, brick and related industries, visit the Materials Handbook.


1. Abrasive Materials, Products, Applications and Global Market (published June 2013, $5,450), BCC Research,

2. Industrial Diamond Market Overview (published April 2013, $1,490), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,

3. Bauxite and Alumina: Global Industry Markets and Outlook (published January 2013, $5,800), Roskill Information Services,

4. Boron Market Review (published January 2013, $990), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,

5. Bentonite Market Review (published May 2013, $1,190), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,

6. Kaolin Market Review (published November 2013, $990), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,

7. Feldspar Market Review (published August 2013, $1,090), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,

8. Fluorspar: Global Industry Markets & Outlook (published July 2013, $6,100), Roskill Information Services,

9. Graphite Market Review (published January 2013, $1,090), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,

10. Gypsum and Anhydrite: Global Industry Markets and Outlook (publication expected January 2014, $5,185), Roskill Information Services,

11. Magnesium Compounds: Global Industry Markets & Outlook (published September 2013, $6,100), Roskill Information Services,

12. Molybdenum Market Review (published January 2013, $1,290), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,

13. Global Rare Earth Elements Market (published November 2012, $600), Red Mountain Insights, LLC,

14. Soda Ash: 2013 World Market Outlook and Forecast up to 2017(published July 2013, $4,500), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,

15. Talc and Pyrophyllite Market Review (published January 2013, $890), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,

 16. Zirconium and Hafnium Market Review (published January 2013, $1,390), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd.,

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