The glass and ceramic industries remain the leading domestic users of boron products, accounting for an estimated 80% of total borates consumption in 2015 (other uses include abrasives, cleaning products, insecticides, insulation and semiconductor production). In Europe and developing countries, more stringent heat conservation-related building standards are being enacted, which is expected to positively impact borates consumption for fiberglass insulation.
Consumption of borates is expected to increase in the foreseeable future, spurred by agricultural, ceramic, and glass markets in Asia and South America. Demand for borates is expected to shift slightly away from detergents and soaps toward glass and ceramics. U.S. imports for consumption in 2015 included: refined borax, up 7.9% to 164,000 t; boric acid, up 5.3% to 60,000 t; colemanite, down 6.7% to 42,000 t; and ulexite, up 117.6% to 74,000 t.
Canada, China, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia and the Netherlands imported the largest quantities of mined borates from the U.S. in 2015. U.S. exports of boric acid dropped 28.4% to 161,000 t, while refined borax exports dipped by 8.9% to 532,000 t Because China has low-grade boron reserves and demand for boron is anticipated to increase in that country, imports to China from Chile, Russia, Turkey, and the U.S. are expected to increase over the next several years.