Raw & Manufactured Materials: 2016 Overview
Increasing regulations in China could provide opportunities for other regions of the world, while continued improvement in the global economy is leading to growth for many traditional and advanced ceramic materials.
According to a report from Global Industry Analysts, Inc., the global alumina zirconia oxide abrasives market is expected to reach $219.2 million by 2020. Recovering global GDP and improving manufacturing activity in consumer goods, heavy machinery, electronics, and automotive are expected to drive growth in the market. A gradual resurgence in building and construction activity, along with an increase in industrial output, are key factors encouraging demand for heavy machinery. Additional factors driving growth include advancements in solar panel manufacturing and an expansion of production capacity for photovoltaic cells. Asia-Pacific represents the largest and fastest-growing regional market, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.4%.1
Production of crude fused aluminum oxide and silicon carbide in the U.S. and Canada have remained at 10,000 t and 35,000 t, respectively, for the past several years. Fused aluminum oxide was produced by two companies at three plants in the U.S. and Canada, and reached an estimated value of $2 million in 2014. Valued at about $26 million, silicon carbide was produced by two companies at two plants in the U.S.
U.S. imports for consumption of fused aluminum oxide dropped by 18.5% in 2014 to reach 150,000 t, while silicon carbide imports for consumption surged 16.8% to 139,000 t. Apparent consumption of silicon carbide in the U.S. increased by 12.5% to 153,000 t in 2014. Bonded and coated abrasive products accounted for most abrasive uses of fused aluminum oxide and silicon carbide. U.S. exports of fused aluminum oxide dropped 9.1% to 20,000 t, while silicon carbide exports increased 14.7% to 21,100 t.
China was again the world’s leading producer of abrasive fused aluminum oxide and abrasive silicon carbide, with production nearly at capacity (see Table 1). Imports and higher operating costs than in China continued to challenge abrasives producers in the U.S. and Canada. Foreign competition, particularly from China, is expected to persist and continue to limit production in North America.
Total domestic production of industrial diamond (output of synthetic grit, powder and stone) in 2014 was estimated at 108 million carats, with a value of $73.2 million. Production of bort, grit, dust and powder (natural and synthetic) in the U.S. increased by 4.8% to reach 47.9 million carats. Imports for consumption dipped slightly (1.6%) to 716 million carats, while exports climbed 13.4% to 152 million carats. Apparent consumption dropped 3.2% to 656 million carats; major uses included computer chip production, construction, machinery manufacturing and transportation systems.
About 97% of the U.S. industrial diamond market now uses synthetic industrial diamond because its quality can be controlled and its properties can be customized to fit specific requirements. China’s annual production of synthetic industrial diamond in 2014 exceeded 4 billion carats (again the largest worldwide).
According to Transparency Research, the global synthetic diamond market (including bort, grit, dust, powder and stone segments) was valued at $15.7 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach $28.8 billion by 2023. Growth in the electronics industry is likely to provide an opportunity for the synthetic diamond market in the future.2
Bauxite and Alumina
Domestic production of alumina (refinery) dropped by 4.3% in 2014 to 4.2 Mt. Alumina imports decreased significantly (17.1%) to 1.7 Mt, while exports decreased less severely (4.3%) to 2.2 Mt. Imports for consumption of bauxite also fell 11.1% to 9.6 Mt; exports dropped 14.3% to 18,000 t. Apparent consumption of bauxite and alumina declined by 3.4% to 2.3 Mt.
U.S. bauxite consumption in 2014 was worth an estimated $269 and nearly all imported. More than 95% of the bauxite was converted to alumina; the remaining 5% went to nonmetallurgical products such as abrasives, chemicals, proppants and refractories. About 90% of the alumina produced went to primary aluminum smelters, with the remainder going to products such as abrasives, ceramics, chemicals and refractories.
Global bauxite production decreased by 17.3% in 2014, principally due to lower production in Indonesia (see Table 2). Bauxite mines throughout Indonesia shut down in response to a government ban on exporting bauxite (as well as other unprocessed mineral ores) that went into effect on January 12, 2014. The ban was part of a mining law that was instituted in 2009 to increase the development of downstream processing facilities in Indonesia. In response, several companies were planning to build alumina refineries in Indonesia, including companies based in China, where the government was encouraging investment in power-intensive industries in other countries. In anticipation of the export ban, many refineries in China stockpiled imported bauxite in 2013, and bauxite production in China increased in 2014. Total imports of bauxite to China from January through August 2014 were 46% lower than in the same period in 2013, while alumina production was 5% higher.
IBISWorld reports that Australia is the world’s largest producer of bauxite, accounting for about one-third of global output. Bauxite production Australia is estimated to reach 82 Mt in 2014-2015, up from 67.8 Mt in 2009-2010. Most bauxite mined in Australia is locally processed into alumina, with over one-third of industry revenue to be derived from exports in 2014-2015 (imports are negligible).3
According to Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., the leading global producer of alumina is China (approximately 40% of the world total). Other major producers include Australia and Brazil.4
Transparency Market Research reports that the global boron compounds market was valued at $1.98 billion in 2013 and is anticipated to reach $3.15 billion by 2020 (CAGR of 6.9%). Boron compounds are divided into three segments: borax, boric acid and others (e.g., sodium metaborate, sodium perborate, boron oxide and boron trifluoride). Boric acid is expected to be the fastest-growing segment during the forecast period due to its fluxing properties and applications in fiberglass and borosilicate glass.5
According to Roskill, the market for boron continues to evolve because of changes in both its pattern of use and consumption of products. The main drivers of consumption are construction (for insulation-grade fiberglass) and electronic devices (for borosilicate glass and textile-grade fiberglass). Smaller sectors include ceramics (mostly tile) and agriculture. Fiberglass used to account for over half of all boron consumption, but this has fallen to just over 40%. By contrast, borosilicate glass has risen to account for over 15% of boron consumption.6
In the U.S. in 2014, the glass and ceramics industries remained the leading users of boron products, consuming an estimated 80% of total borates consumption. Boron was also used as a component in abrasives, cleaning products, insecticides and in the production of semiconductors. Imports for consumption included: borax, flat at 2,000 t; boric acid, up 18.9% to 63,000 t; colemanite, up an astounding 720% to 41,000 t; and ulexite, flat at 13,000 t.
Exports of boric acid declined by 7.3% to 215,000 t, while exports of refined sodium borates increased a strong 22.8% to 631,000 t. Canada, China, Korea, Malaysia and The Netherlands are the countries that imported the largest quantities of mined borates from the U.S. Because China has low-grade boron reserves and demand for boron is anticipated to rise in that country, imports to China from Chile, Russia, Turkey, and the U.S. are expected to increase during the next several years.
U.S. production of clays was fairly flat in 2014, increasing by 2.9% to 24.7 Mt (from 2013’s 24 Mt) and valued at $1.55 billion (see Table 3). The U.S. accounted for approximately 15-25% of the global production of refined clays (excluding common clay and shale). Apparent domestic consumption also increased by 2.9%, to reach 21 Mt. Estimated uses for specific clays in 2014 included:
- Ball clay—39% floor and wall tile, 17% sanitaryware and 44% other uses
- Bentonite—26% absorbents, 24% drilling mud, 15% foundry sand bond, 11% iron ore pelletizing and 24% other uses
- Common clay—39% brick, 31% cement, 23% lightweight aggregate and 7% other uses
- Fire clay—34% heavy clay products, and 66% refractory products and other uses
- Fuller’s earth—70% absorbent uses and 30% other uses
- Kaolin—47% paper and 53% other uses (including lightweight ceramic proppants, which have become a significant market for kaolin)
Imports for consumption dropped 8.2% to 480,000 t, including: artificially activated clay and earth, down 17.9% to 23,000 t; kaolin, down 6.0% to 440,000 t; and other clays, down 40.7% to 16,000 t. Exports were flat overall, at 4.2 Mt in 2014 (vs. 4.1 Mt the prior year), and including: ball clay, down 3.8% to 50,000 t; bentonite, down 1.1% to 880,000 t; fire clay, down 6.7% to 250,000 t; fuller’s earth, up 10.5% to 95,000 t; kaolin, up 1.6% to 2.6 Mt; and other clays, down 4.6% to 290,000 t.
According to Roskill, the global market for bentonite and fuller’s earth will increase 2-4% per year through 2020, with healthy growth expected in the major markets of foundry sand and iron ore pelletizing. The U.S. is the largest producer of both bentonite and fuller’s earth, accounting for almost one-third of the 21.2 Mt in global production in 2014. Other important producers of bentonite include China, India, Greece, Mexico, Russia and Turkey. A limited number of new resources will be developed through 2020, as most new capacity will come from expansions in existing resource areas. New deposits under consideration include those for bentonite in Australia, Canada, Russia and the U.S.; sepiolite in Namibia; and attapulgite in South Africa.7
Grand View Research reports that the global fire clay market is expected to witness significant growth through 2022 as a result of increasing demand in chimney linings, boilers, glass melting, pottery kilns, and blast and reheating furnaces. Over the past few years, the Asia-Pacific region has been the fastest-growing market due to numerous construction projects that have been fueled by rising disposable income and rapid industrialization. Within the Asia-Pacific, China and India have been the growth hubs; they are expected to experience similar growth through 2022. North American and Europe have witnessed stable growth in terms of fire clay application, which has largely been adopted in housing developments due to greater safety requirements. These regions are expected to see moderate increases for fire clay, with Germany, France, the UK, the U.S. and Canada showing the most growth. The Middle East has been a large fire clay market over the past few years, and this is expected to continue through 2022. Africa witnessed a below-average growth rate, with only Libya and South Africa as active sub-regional markets.8
The global market for nanoclays is expected to grow significantly through 2022, according to Grand View Research, with applications in aerospace and aviation, automotive, toiletries, biomaterials, medical and dyes, and pigments and paints driving demand. Nanoclays are chemically synthesized or naturally occurring inorganic materials that are used as adhesives for polymers to improve mechanical, barrier and thermal properties.9
According to Technavio, the global feldspar market is expected to generate volumetric sales of around 26 Mt by the end of 2019. Major applications are found in the glass and ceramic industries, as well as fillers; glass is the largest consumer of feldspar, with a market share of around 53% in 2014.10
Merchant Research & Consulting reports that glass and ceramics continue to account for nearly two-thirds of the worldwide demand for feldspar. The leading producer is Italy, with about 30.4% of the world total, followed by Turkey and China. Other key producers include Thailand, France, Iran and Spain. Demand for feldspar is primarily driven by Eastern Europe, South America and Southeast Asia (mainly India and China).11
Domestically, production of feldspar in 2014 rose slightly (1.8%) to 560,000 t valued at approximately $40 million. Apparent consumption increased by 3.0% to 552,000 t; major end uses of domestic feldspar included glass, 60%; and ceramic tile, pottery, and other uses, 40%. Most feldspar consumed by the glass industry is for the manufacture of container glass; fiberglass insulation for housing and building construction is another major end user.
Residential domestic construction, in which feldspar is used in the production of glass and ceramic tile, increased in 2014. Consumption of flat glass for residential construction and window replacements in existing housing continued to increase. Housing starts and completions rose by about 7% and 15%, respectively, compared with those of the same period in 2013; increases were expected to continue. In addition, fiberglass consumption for thermal insulation was expected to increase in line with housing and commercial building construction.
Although natural graphite was not produced domestically in 2014, approximately 90 U.S. firms (primarily in the Northeastern and Great Lakes regions) consumed 53,200 t valued at $57.5 million, a slight increase from the 2013 level of 52,000 t. Major uses of natural graphite in 2014 included brake linings, foundry operations, lubricants, refractory applications and steelmaking. Exports remained flat at 9,000 t, while imports for consumption rose by 1.6% to reach 62,000 t; imports were 65% flake and high-purity graphite, and 35% amorphous graphite.
According to Roskill, lithium-ion batteries are heavier consumers of graphite than lithium. Some market commentators have speculated that the potential market from Tesla’s planned “gigafactory” in Nevada will require at least 50,000 tons per year of graphite. Existing worldwide demand for graphite in all batteries in 2015 is expected to be 125,000 t. Of this total, natural graphite accounts for around 90,000 t (70-75%), with the remaining 35,000 t (25-30%) being synthetic graphite. Batteries are an application where natural and synthetic graphite are in competition. The shift in world graphite markets is expected to continue, with amorphous natural graphite losing ground to synthetic graphite. (Batteries represent less than 5% of the world market for natural and synthetic graphite.)
Roskill reports that world natural graphite production is split almost equally between flake and amorphous in 2015, but the proportion of flake is expected to increase by 2020. Growth in flake demand will be driven by refractories. More rapid growth of 10-15% per year from the battery market is possible, but from a much lower base.12
The world’s largest supplier of graphite, China, recently closed a number of mines due to environmental concerns, according to Merchant Research & Consulting. These closures raised some concerns regarding future supply, prompting buyers look for new sources. It is expected that China will continue to dominate in terms of graphite supply, but its share will decrease as the country continues to implement mining regulation plans.13
Kyanite and Related Minerals
Kyanite, andalusite and sillimanite are anhydrous aluminosilicate minerals that have the same chemical formula (Al2SiO5), but differ in crystal structure and physical properties. When calcined at high temperatures, these minerals are converted to mullite (3Al2O3•2SiO2) and silica (SiO2), which are refractory materials. Domestic mine production of kyanite and related materials declined by 9.1% in 2014 to 100,000 t, while the production of synthetic mullite climbed 25% to 50,000 t. Exports of kyanite and related materials increased by 9.5% to 38,000 t. Imports for consumption of andalusite dropped by 25% to 3,000 t.
One firm in Virginia with integrated mining and processing operations produced kyanite from two hard-rock open pit mines, and mullite by calcining kyanite. Another company produced synthetic mullite in Georgia from materials mined from two domestic sites (Alabama and Georgia). Of the kyanite-mullite output, 90% was estimated to have been used in refractories, with the remaining in other uses such as abrasive products (e.g., motor vehicle brake shoes and pads, and grinding and cutting wheels); ceramic products (e.g., electrical insulating porcelains, sanitaryware and other whitewares); foundry products and precision casting molds; and other products. An estimated 60-65% of the refractory usage was in the iron and steel industries; the remainder was used by industries that manufacture chemicals, glass, nonferrous metals, and other materials.
Andalusite was commercially mined in North Carolina as part of a mineral mixture of high-purity silica and alumina for use in a variety of refractory mineral products for the foundry and ceramic industries. According to Persistence Market Research, the andalusite industry is driven by the growth of the refractories industry. Global demand for longer lasting, higher quality and low-cost refractories is increasing in the emerging economies of the Asia-Pacific, especially China and India, due to rapid economic growth. The refractories industry follows the trend set by its main end user, the steel industry. Steel production makes up the majority of demand for refractories, and profitability of the refractories industry is influenced by investment in steel production and steel plants. Although end users other than the steel industry consume less andalusite, they have a strong impact on the growth of andalusite industry. The ceramic, glass, aluminum and cement industries contribute heavily to the growth of the andalusite industry. However, fluctuations of major global currencies, rising oil prices and the availability of substitutes such as bauxite could hamper growth.14
Domestic production of magnesium compounds increased 7.7% to 320,000 t in 2014, valued at $251 million. Seawater and natural brines accounted for about 69% of the production. Magnesium oxide and other compounds were recovered from seawater by one company in California and another in Delaware, from well brines by one company in Michigan, and from lake brines by two companies in Utah. Magnesite was mined by one company in Nevada, and olivine was mined by one company in Washington.
Apparent domestic consumption of magnesium compounds in 2014 climbed 12.4% to 570,000 t. About 52% of the magnesium compounds consumed in the U.S. were used in agricultural, chemical, construction, environmental and industrial applications. The remaining 48% was used for refractories. Magnesia brick consumption in China in 2013 was 16% lower than that in 2012. The decrease in consumption was partially attributed to slower economic growth in China and the country’s government ordering older, inefficient capacity in the steel, cement, and glass industries to be shut down. In addition, the production of higher quality refractories that last longer also decreased magnesia consumption. Dead-burned magnesia was being replaced with fused magnesia in some steel furnaces.
Although the trends of more efficient use of refractory products and slower growth in China were expected to continue, concerns about the availability of raw materials have led several refractories producers to secure captive sources of magnesia in recent years. Further consumer acquisitions of raw materials suppliers were expected.
New or reopened production capacity has provided an alternative to fused magnesia produced in China. A magnesite mine in Greece that had been shut down for about 15 years was reopened in late 2013 and began shipping magnesite in 2014. The plant had a capacity to produce 15,000 t per year of caustic calcined magnesia, and was building a 60,000-ton-per-year kiln. In Russia, the leading magnesia producer commissioned a new fused magnesia furnace with a capacity of 50,000 tons per year.
According to The Freedonia Group, global demand for rare earths is forecast to increase 3.5% per year to 149,500 t in 2019, valued at $4.5 billion (see Table 4). The largest increases are forecast for the permanent magnet segment, boosted by expanding production of advanced neodymium magnets for applications such as wind turbines and hybrid and electric vehicles (H/EVs). Rising output of nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries is also expected to fuel rare earths demand. In addition, upgrades to oil refining sectors in emerging countries are projected to boost global catalytic cracking capacity, supporting the production of fluid cracking catalysts and associated demand for lanthanum and cerium. Rising production of steel, motor vehicles, and electronics is also expected to drive rare earths consumption.
China will remain the leading consumer of rare earths, accounting for over two-thirds of global demand in 2019, reports Freedonia. Japan will remain the second-largest global market, benefiting from a large domestic electronics manufacturing sector and robust demand for rare earths in the production of batteries, magnets, and polishing powders. The fastest gains of any major market worldwide are projected for India, where rising domestic production of motor vehicles and metal alloys, as well as expanding catalytic cracking capacity, are expected to boost rare earths consumption. India is also developing local production of rare earth magnets, although this market will remain small in the near term.
China will continue to account for the majority of rare earths mining output through 2019, according to Freedonia, although its share of total production is expected to drop as a number of new projects in Canada, Tanzania, South Africa, and other countries begin commercial production. Major output increases are also expected in Australia as Lynas continues to ramp up production following capacity expansions. However, junior mining companies looking to develop new deposits will struggle to obtain investments for these ventures as prices for rare earths will remain depressed, due in part to rampant illegal mining activities that continue to plague China’s industry.15
BCC Research reports that the number of applications for rare earths has increased significantly over the last few decades. Technologically advanced devices in the automotive, defense, metallurgy, electronics and optoelectronics, chemical, energy, and other fields owe some of their unique properties to the presence of rare earths.16
The U.S. continued to be a net importer of rare earth products in 2014; the estimated value of rare earth compound and metal imports was $210 million, down from $256 million in 2013. Estimated consumption increased 13.3% to 17,000 t and included end use in: catalysts, 60%; metallurgical applications and alloys, 10%; permanent magnets, 10%; glass polishing, 10%; and other, 10%. Consumption was stimulated by lower prices and increased availability of rare earth compounds.
Increased domestic production of separated rare earth products was hampered by technical difficulties in the ramp-up of new production capacity. Despite increased global demand for rare earths in the permanent magnet and catalyst industries, prices for more rare earth compounds declined in 2014 due to excess inventory in the market. In addition, consumption of rare earths in the phosphor industry decreased due to the increased use of LED lighting, which requires less rare earths than fluorescent lighting.
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, as well as foundry, abrasive, hydraulic fracturing applications and many other industrial uses. U.S. production increased by 20.8% in 2014 to 75 Mt valued at about $4.2 billion. Leading states, in order of tonnage produced, include Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas, Minnesota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Iowa; combined production from these states accounted for 78% of the domestic total.
Apparent domestic consumption of industrial sand and gravel climbed 21.9% to 72.3 Mt in 2014. About 72% of the U.S. tonnage was used as hydraulic fracturing sand and well-packing and cementing sand, 13% as glassmaking sand, 6% as foundry sand, 3% as whole-grain fillers and building products, 2% as other whole-grain silica, 2% as ground and unground sand for chemicals, and 2% for other uses. Imports for consumption jumped 75% to 280,000 t in 2014, while exports were fairly flat at 3,000 t.
Freedonia forecasts that global demand for industrial silica sand will to advance 5.5% per year to 291 Mt in 2018, with a value of $12.5 billion (see Table 5). Accelerations in construction spending and manufacturing output worldwide are expected to drive growth in important silica sand-consuming industries, including the glass, foundry and building products sectors. Particularly rapid gains are projected for the hydraulic fracturing market, as horizontal drilling for shale oil and gas resources expands, largely in North America. Nevertheless, faster gains in the overall market will be constrained by ongoing efforts to incorporate higher volumes of recycled glass cullet in the manufacture of glass containers.
The Asia-Pacific region will remain the largest regional consumer of industrial sand through 2018, supported by the dominant Chinese market, according to Freedonia. The country’s container glass industry will drive further silica sand sales, supported by rising production of glass bottles, particularly in the alcoholic beverage sector. In India, foundry activity will advance at a healthy pace, spurring the production of sand molds to manufacture metal castings. Indonesia will also register strong growth in silica sand sales through 2018, supported by rapid advances in the output of glass products and metal castings, combined with increased hydraulic fracturing activity.
Freedonia reports that demand for silica sand in North America is forecast to rise at a faster annual pace than any other regional market. The U.S. and Canada will lead regional growth, driven by expansion in the countries’ respective hydraulic fracturing segments. Strength in U.S. oilfield activity will boost demand for sand proppants, as will increases in the number of fracturing stages per well. Consumption of silica sand in Western Europe is projected to see more modest annual gains through 2018, although such growth will mark a rebound from the declines registered between 2008 and 2013. Recoveries in building construction and manufacturing activity, including a turnaround in flat glass output, will stimulate renewed demand for industrial sand in the region.17
Talc and Pyrophyllite
The dynamics of the world talc industry are changing, according to Roskill. New suppliers are entering the international marketplace and upsetting the status quo. For many years, the global talc industry has been dominated by Chinese production, with production of 1.8 Mt and exports of 0.7 Mt in 2014. In terms of corporate control, four out of the 10 leading talc producers worldwide are based in China. However, Chinese output and exports have fallen by 10% over the past two years. Producers in China have suffered from dwindling reserves of high-whiteness talc and competition from alternative lower-cost sources of talc.
Roskill reports that Pakistan has emerged as the second-largest supplier of talc to international markets since 2012. Shipments, including large quantities of crude talc mined in Afghanistan and milled in Pakistan prior to export, rose from 64,000 t to nearly 400,000 t between 2010 and 2013. Production in Afghanistan is rising, and in 2015 the country could become the fifth-largest producer worldwide.
Roskill forecasts that worldwide talc demand will increase over the next five years by 2.3% per year. Growth will be led by the plastics industry, with demand also increasing in the coatings, food processing and technical ceramics markets. These areas of growth will more than offset the decline in demand seen in the paper sector. Talc is used in polypropylene, the use of which is growing in automotive vehicles in order to reduce vehicle weight. This is a double bonus for talc, as its intensity of use is also rising because talc imparts the mechanical properties needed to meet lightweighting requirements such as strength and stiffness, among others. The average talc content of a light EU automobile more than doubled between 2006 and 2014.18
Domestically, talc production in 2014 was down 1.3% to an estimated 535,000 t valued at $21 million. Sales of talc were estimated to be 554,000 t, a slight decrease of 1.1% from 2013’s 560,000 t. Apparent consumption was also down in 2014, by 2.7% to 605,000 t. Talc produced and sold in the U.S. was used for: ceramics, 26%; paper, 21%; paint, 19%; roofing, 9%; plastics, 8%; rubber, 4%; cosmetics, 3%; and other, 10%.
U.S. exports of talc in 2014 were relatively flat, at 190,000 t. Imports for consumption decreased by 3.3% to 260,000 t. More than 75% of the imported talc was used in the cosmetics, paint and plastic markets. When including imported talc, the ranking of end uses (in decreasing order by tonnage) was: plastics, ceramics, paint, paper, roofing, cosmetics, rubber, and other.
Since 1994, talc production and apparent consumption has decreased by 44% and 34%, respectively, due to several factors. For example, ceramic tile and sanitaryware formulations, as well as the technology for firing ceramic tile, have changed over time to reduce the amount of talc required. In addition, because ceramic tile imports increased, many domestic ceramic tile manufacturing plants were closed; a major domestic talc supplier to the ceramic tile industry ceased operations in 2009.
One company in North Carolina mined pyrophyllite. Production of pyrophyllite increased in 2014, and consumption (in decreasing order by tonnage) was in: refractory products, ceramics, and paint.
Titanium and Related Materials
U.S. production of titanium mineral concentrates dropped 50% to 100,000 t in 2014. Two firms produced ilmenite and rutile concentrates from surface mining operations in Florida and Virginia, with zircon as a coproduct. Exports plummeted 71.4% to 2,000 t (from 2013’s 7,000 t), while imports for consumption were down by a less dramatic 11.8% to 1.1 Mt.
Apparent domestic consumption was also down in 2014, by 17.3% to 1.2 Mt. The estimated value of titanium mineral concentrates consumed in the U.S. was approximately $$835 million. About 95% of those concentrates were consumed by domestic titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment producers. The remaining 5% was used in welding rod coatings and for manufacturing carbides, chemicals, and metal.
According to Transparency Market Research, the global TiO2 market was valued at $13.14 billion in 2013 and is expected to reach $17.12 billion by 2020, representing a CAGR of 3.8%. The Asia-Pacific dominated the global TiO2 market in 2013, with a share of over 40%; this trend is expected to continue. Asia-Pacific is also projected to be the fastest-growing region in the next few years due to high growth in the emerging economies of India and China.19
In 2014, TiO2 pigment was produced by four companies at six facilities in five U.S. states and valued at about $4.4 billion. Production increased by 2.3% to reach 1.3 Mt. Exports were up a modest 2.2% to 685,000 t, while imports for consumption surged 10.3% to 235,000 t.
Apparent U.S. consumption of TiO2 was up by 4.1% to 860,000 t in 2014, due to increased housing starts and new home sales. The estimated end use distribution of TiO2 pigment consumption was: paint (including lacquers and varnishes), 62%; plastic, 24%; paper, 11%; and other, 3% (catalysts, ceramics, coated fabrics and textiles, floor coverings, printing ink, and roofing granules).
Zirconium Compounds and Related Minerals
According to Grand View Research, zirconium oxide (zirconia) is expected to witness tremendous growth through 2020 due to its increasing use in numerous applications, such as medical products, optical fibers and waterproofing clothing. In addition, the development of China’s ceramic tile industry is anticipated to augment zirconia demand, as the product is used as an opacifier in sanitaryware, floor and wall tile, and tableware.
Developing countries such as India, Korea and China are the major growth markets for zirconia, Grand View reports. However, the economic disorder that flattened the global industrial sector during 2008 and 2009 negatively affected the zirconium market. Zirconium price volatility, coupled with supply shortages, impacted market growth adversely over the past few years. Nonetheless, the market is likely to improve quickly and post robust growth in the following years.
The Asia-Pacific region was the largest consumer of zirconia in the world due to a sharp rise in demand in ceramics and foundries applications, according to Grand View. Moreover, the exploration of new mine reserves is expected to influence the consumption of zirconia across end-use sectors. Notably, production targeted toward nuclear energy provides great opportunities for zirconia market growth through 2020. In addition, the zirconia nanoparticles market is likely to develop notably in the next few years due to its augmented use in niche markets such as thermal barriers, electronic displays, medical and dental implants, solid oxide fuel cells, and wear-resistant coatings.20
Merchant Research & Consulting reports that zirconium production is concentrated in the hands of a number of companies. Its application in the nuclear industry and ceramic tile production will determine growth, as those industries are expected to expand in the near future. Two companies dominate hafnium production, which is dependent on zirconium extraction and refining. The global hafnium market is forecast to grow in the near future.21
In the U.S., 2014 imports of zirconium ores and concentrates (in terms of zirconia content) skyrocketed 251.6% to 28,300 t due to reduced domestic production; exports likewise dropped by 71.1% to 5,490 t. Two mines in Virginia and one in Florida produced zirconium ores and concentrates, but operations at one of the Virginia mines was idled in order to draw down existing inventories. The operator of these two mines announced its decision to mine out deposits at both operations without further investment; mining and processing activities at these locations were expected to finish at the end of 2015. A new zircon mine in Georgia started up in 2014, and another was expected to begin production in the fourth quarter of 2015. Worldwide, zirconium mine production increased slightly (2.0%) to 1.5 Mt in 2014 (see Table 6).
Editor’s note: The foregoing information, except where noted, was compiled from the U.S. Geological Survey (www.usgs.gov). All units are in metric tons (t) or million metric tons (Mt), unless otherwise noted. In most cases, 2014 data were the latest available (and often estimated). For additional details regarding the uses of these materials in the ceramic, glass, brick, refractories and related industries, visit the Materials Handbook.
1. Alumina Zirconia Oxide Abrasives (published January 2015; $4,500), Global Industry Analysts, Inc., www.strategyr.com.
2. Synthetic Diamond Market-Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2015-2023 (published December 2015; $4,795), Transparency Market Research, www.transparencymarketresearch.com.
3. Bauxite Mining in Australia: Market Research Report (published April 2015; $995), IBISWorld, www.ibisworld.com.au.
4. Bauxite and Alumina: 2015 World Market Review and Forecast (published April 2015; $1,850), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., www.mcgroup.co.uk.
5. Boron Compounds Market-Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2014-2020 (published November 2014; $4,795), Transparency Market Research, www.transparencymarketresearch.com.
6. Boron: Global Industry Markets & Outlook, 13th Edition, 2015 (published April 2015), Roskill, www.roskill.com.
7. Bentonite: Global Industry Markets and Outlook (published October 2015), Roskill, www.roskill.com.
8. Fire Clay Market Analysis, Market Size, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Competitive Strategies and Forecasts, 2015-2022 (publish date TBA; $4,700), Grand View Research, www.grandviewresearch.com.
9. Nanoclays Market Analysis, Market Size, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Competitive Strategies and Forecasts, 2015-2022 (publish date TBA; $4,700), Grand View Research, www.grandviewresearch.com.
10. Global Feldspar Market, 2015-2019 (November 2015; $2,500), Technavio, www.technavio.com.
11. Feldspar: 2015 World Market Review and Forecast (July 2015; $1,850), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., www.mcgroup.co.uk.
12. Graphite to 2020 (published December 2015), Roskill, www.roskill.com.
13. Graphite: 2015 World Market Review and Forecast (June 2015; $2,150), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., www.mcgroup.co.uk.
14. Andalusite Market: Global Industry Analysis and Forecast, 2015-2021, Persistence Market Research Pvt. Ltd., www.persistencemarketresearch.com.
15. World Rare Earths (November 2015; $6,300), The Freedonia Group, Inc., www.freedoniagroup.com.
16. Rare Earths: Worldwide Markets, Applications, Technologies (January 2015; $5,995), BCC Research, www.bccresearch.com.
17. World Industrial Silica Sand (December 2014; $6,200), The Freedonia Group, Inc., www.freedoniagroup.com.
18. Talc: Global Industry Markets & Outlook, 10th Edition, 2015 (published June 2015), Roskill, www.roskill.com.
19. Titanium Dioxide Market-Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2014-2020 (published May 2015), Transparency Market Research, www.transparencymarketresearch.com.
20. Zirconium Oxide Market Analysis, Market Size, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Competitive Strategies and Forecasts, 2014-2020 (publish date TBA; $4,700), Grand View Research, www.grandviewresearch.com.
21. Zirconium and Hafnium: 2015 World Market Review and Forecast (June 2015; $2,050), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., www.mcgroup.co.uk.