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  • Iluka Resources taking a chance on China’s pigment potential

    Monday, 15 December 2014

    World-leading mineral sands miner Iluka Resources today confirmed that it will be targeting both the Chinese sulphate and chloride route titanium dioxide (TiO2) market, days after it announced its intention to diversify its reach away from the US market.

  • CUMI forms independent European subsidiary for its refractory products

    Thursday, 11 December 2014

    The formation of its subsidiary company, CUMI Europe, will allow the company to be in closer to European customers for the supply of its abrasive, ceramics and refractory products, as well as electrominerals. This makes it a strong potential competitor in the European refractory industry.

  • MZI settles deferred payment and royalty with Stirling Resources

    Thursday, 11 December 2014

    The settlement on the deferred payment, which was due in 2015, and the termination of the royalty deed means that MZI can now fully focus on development at its Keysbrook mineral sands project, for which production of 96,000 tpa mineral sands is expected in 2015.

  • Tasnee signs $428m agreement to increase stake in Cristal to 79%

    Wednesday, 10 December 2014

    Tasnee purchased 13% of Gulf Investment Corp.’s shares as part of a strategy to maximise the stakes in its subsidiaries. While TiO2 producer Cristal is looking towards vertical integration and increasing its operational capacity, the move is not expected to affect any of its current operations.

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  • Australia: End of the mining gloom?

    Wednesday, 26 November 2014

    The downturn of the global “commodities supercyle” and slowing raw material demand in China has been felt keenly in Australia’s resources sector. But while proponents of Australian mining admit the industry isn’t quite as mighty as it used to be, they say that there are still plenty of reasons to be positive Down Under, Siobhan Lismore-Scott, Editor and Laura Syrett, Prices Editor, discover.

  • South East Asia: Room to grow

    Wednesday, 26 November 2014

    Although regulatory difficulties in the past may have discouraged foreign investment, South East Asia is being touted as a region ripe for development with many underexploited resources and demand for industrial minerals in a variety of markets including refractories, glass, ceramics, construction and proppants. Andrew Scogings, IM Correspondant, Kasia Patel, Deputy Editor, and Tran Kim Phuong, Contributor

  • Potash and barite supply tightens while fused magnesia faces overcapacity

    Wednesday, 29 October 2014

    Antimony, iodine suffer from slow China growth; Tough times continue for TiO2 pigment market; FM producers storing up trouble for the future

  • Alkane well positioned to bring Dubbo to fruition

    Wednesday, 29 October 2014

    Alkane look to zircon markets with the Dubbo project

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Market Brief

Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a white pigment that is a key ingredient of paints, coatings, paper and plastics. For white products, TiO2 is the material of choice as it is the brightest and whitest commercially available pigment.

TiO2 is manufactured from the minerals ilmenite, rutile and, in smaller quantities, leucoxene, which are primarily sourced from mineral sand deposits, but also can be processed from hard rock deposits.

There are two commercially active ways of manufacturing TiO2: the sulphate and chloride routes. Sulphate tends to utilise the lower grade mineral ilmenite, while chloride processing favours higher quality feedstocks such as rutile.

Zircon is an entirely separate mineral and contains no TiO2. It is however commonly tied up with titanium mineral deposits so most producers also sell quantities of zircon. For few it is the primary focus, but for many miners it is a high-value, by-product bonus.


TiO2 pigment is a mature industry which has been developed by the chemicals industry. While North America and Europe host the majority of plants, new plants under construction in China are starting to readdress this imbalance.

Leading producers include: DuPont, Cristal Global, Huntsman Corp., Kronos Worldwide and Tronox.

In terms of feedstock mineral production, Australia and South Africa are leading producers. Since 2008/09, new African sources have come online in Mozambique and Madagascar.

In terms of tonnages, ilmenite is by far the largest mined TiO2 mineral. On average it has between 52-54% TiO2 content and is purchased, in the main, by those that manufacturer sulphate TiO2.

Rutile has almost double the TiO2 content at 92-95% TiO2 but is less abundant than ilmenite. The biggest commercially active sources are in Australia and Sierra Leone.

Leading producers of TiO2 minerals include: Iluka Resources (Australia), Exxaro Resources (South Africa), Rio Tinto (Australia), Kenmare Resources (Ireland/Mozambique), Bemax Resources (Australia), Consolidated Rutile (Australia) and Titanium Resources Group (UK/Sierra Leone).

Zircon is commonly tied up with titanium mineral sand deposits but has very different market applications. It is almost double the US dollar value of rutile.

Most of producers of titanium minerals from sand have zircon by-production but the focus on this high-value production is increasing in line with demand driven by China.

Chloride route: 55%

Sulphate route: 45%

Global capacity (tonnes): 5.6m. tpa


The largest market is TiO2’s direct use as a white pigment in industrial and household paints and coatings for products such as cars. Significant quantities are also used in plastics and paper where its whiteness is still a primary reason for its use.  

The majority of zircon production finds its way into ceramics, although refractories and foundry sands are also important end uses. In ceramics, China is the biggest influencing factor importing around a third of world supply as it has few zircon sources of its own.