A report from Global Industry Analysts indicates that the global market for zirconium is expected to exceed 1.5 Mt by 2022, driven by growing demand for ceramic wall and floor tile, as well as expanding applications for zirconium metal, zirconia, and zirconium-based chemicals. Additional factors benefiting market prospects include increasing urbanization and the resulting demand for zirconium-based construction materials such as sanitaryware and tableware, and emerging new uses in dental implants and orthopedic prosthetics.
China represents the largest worldwide market for zirconium, according to Global Industry Analysts, supported by massive domestic production capacity for zirconium sponge. The Asia-Pacific, excluding China, ranks as the fastest-growing market with a CAGR of 5.7% to 2022. Australia and South Africa represent other leading producers of zirconium worldwide.18
Technavio predicts that the global zirconium market will grow at a CAGR of close to 7% to 2020, driven by increased demand in the Asia-Pacific, particularly China. In 2015, China produced more than 90% of the zirconium oxychloride and zirconium silicate (zircon) across the world.19
Global zirconium mine production dipped 4.9% to approximately 1.4 Mt in 2015 (excluding U.S. production; see Table 4). Domestically in 2015, three firms recovered zircon from surface mining operations in Florida, Georgia and Virginia, as a coproduct from the mining and processing of heavy minerals. U.S. zircon production (in terms of ZrO2 content) was approximately 60,000 t. Zirconium metal and hafnium metal were produced from zirconium chemical intermediates by one domestic producer in Oregon and one in Utah. Zirconium chemicals were produced by the metal producer in Oregon and by at least 10 other companies.
Apparent U.S. consumption of zirconium ores and concentrates was approximately 80,000 t in 2015. Ceramics, foundry sand applications, opacifiers and refractories are the leading end uses for zircon. Others include abrasives, chemicals (predominantly zirconium oxychloride octohydrate and zirconium basic sulfate as intermediate chemicals), metal alloys and welding rod coatings. U.S. imports of ores and concentrates decreased by 36.9% (to 20,700 t) and exports decreased by 41.6% (to 2,830 t) due to end users’ adjustments to the forthcoming idling of operations in Virginia and the commencement of mineral processing operations in Georgia.
18. Zirconium-A Global Strategic Business Report (published May 2016; $4,500), Global Industry Analysts, Inc., www.strategyr.com.
19. Global Zirconium Market, 2016-2020 (published October 2016; $2,500), Technavio, www.technavio.com.