Zircon has been used by tile manufacturers as a raw material in the production of ceramic tile for many decades, principally as an opacifier to obtain lasting brilliant whiteness. Its high hardness helps produce a resilient tile capable of resisting mechanical damage, as well as increasing resistance to water, heat and chemicals, while making tile surfaces more suitable for the latest digital printing techniques.
The environmental impacts of a lifecycle assessment (LCA) of zircon sand were recently assessed in a study commissioned by the Zircon Industry Association (ZIA). The LCA study examined the environmental impacts associated with the production of 1 kg of zircon sand. Because of the comparatively low environmental impact of the downstream manufacturing process, the impact relates overwhelmingly to local electricity consumption associated with upstream mining processes, much like the mining of other natural minerals.