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  • A rock and a hard place

    Friday, 08 September 2017

    Demand for refractory products is evolving, forcing suppliers to upgrade their offers and processes to stay ahead of the game, while Chinese-origin raw materials are appreciating on the back of supply shortages, making productions costlier, Davide Ghilotti, IM Chief Reporter, finds.

  • 2016 Year in Review

    Thursday, 15 December 2016

    A round up of the year's main events in major global industrial minerals markets such as lithium, agriminerals, rare earths and titanium dioxide.

  • China’s refractories market: Managed decline

    Monday, 22 August 2016

    A policy to reduce steel capacity in China has neutralised the impact that rising steel production might have had on refractories demand in the first half of this year, while the tough trading conditions have prompted some companies to exit the market altogether, Albert Li, IM Analyst, finds.

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Market Brief

Chromite is the commercial name for iron chromium oxide (FeCr2O4), a mineral containing chromium (a transition metal with multiple oxidation states) and iron oxide. In its purest form, chromite comprises chromium (Cr2O3) at 68% and iron oxide (FeO) at 32%.

 

Chromite occurs exclusively in ultramafic rocks such as dunite, peridotite, pyroxenite and serpentinite.

 

High purity deposits are rare owing to replacement by certain elements. In nature, ferrous iron tends to be partially replaced by magnesium, while chromium may be partially replaced by aluminium or ferric iron.

 

As a result, a range of chromite grades can occur in any deposit, with each grade suitable for a specific application.

 

Grades produced include metallurgical and non-metallurgical applications:

 

·         Metallurgical grade (high chromium chromite, minimum 40% Cr2O3)

·         Chemical grade (high iron chromite, 46% Cr2O3)

·         Foundry grade (low silica chromite, 45% Cr2O3)

·         Refractory grade (high aluminium chromite, 46% Cr2O3)

 

Supply

World chromite reserves are estimated to total around 7.6bn tonnes, with the majority of this located in South Africa. The country is by far the single largest holder of the world’s chromite reserves, accounting for 5.5bn tonnes (72%) – much of which is held in the Bushveld Igneous Complex.

 

Other important sources of chromite include Zimbabwe (with 12% of the world’s reserves), Kazakhstan (4%), Finland (2%), India (1%) and smaller amounts in Turkey and elsewhere.

 

World production of chrome ore totalled 23.8m. tonnes in 2008 and was dominated by South Africa (41%), followed by India (16%), Kazakhstan (15%), Turkey (8%), and Oman (3.5%).

 

Leading non-metallurgical chromite producers include:

 

Assmang – South Africa

Chromex – UK (operating in South Africa)

Cihan Group – Turkey

Dedeman Madencilik – Turkey

Eti Krom – Turkey

Marico Chrome – South Africa

Oman Chromite – Oman

Rand York Minerals – South Africa

Samancor – South Africa

Xstrata – South Africa


Markets

Ferrochrome markets consumed 93% of the chrome ore produced in 2009, with non-metallurgical markets accounting for almost all of the balance (save for 0.1% used as chromium metal).

Chemical and foundry grade chromite consumed around 3% each of total chromite production, with about 1% used in refractories.

 

Chemical grade chromite: used in leather tanning, metal finishing and wood preservatives. Also used to produce light-stable and corrosion-inhibiting pigments; in addition to paints, colour glass, and ceramic glazes.

 

Foundry grade chromite: specialist foundry sand used to produce manganese, carbon and alloy steel castings and non-ferrous metal castings. Promotes rapid solidification of castings.

 

Refractory grade chromite: used to manufacture refractory bricks used in converters and furnaces for platinum, copper and lead production, and some secondary steelmaking processes.