TiO2/Zircon

Latest News

  • Video News: China to launch spot trading platform for graphite

    Monday, 15 September 2014

    Ilmenite prices will continue to fall in the near future; water shortage to be a serious risk for oil & gas industry; Tesla will build its Li-ion battery Gigafactory in Nevada

  • Sierra Rutile operations to be restricted by Ebola lockdown

    Monday, 15 September 2014

    The outbreak of the disease is the largest recorded in history and the government’s attempt to combat the spread of infection will result in three-day travel restrictions, which are likely to impact the TiO2 feedstock producer’s operations. However exports of rutile, ilmenite and zircon are unlikely to be affected, Sierra Rutile confirmed.

  • Price Briefing 5 – 11 September

    Thursday, 11 September 2014

    Ilmenite and iodine both on slippery slope; flake graphite sits at four-year lows

  • European Commission approves Huntsman purchase of Rockwood TiO2 assets

    Wednesday, 10 September 2014

    Acquisition approval is subject to Huntsman’s divestiture of its TR25 business, which produces 30,000 tpa TiO2. Although the $1.1bn purchase of Rockwood’s assets sparked some antitrust concerns, the go-ahead from the European Commission means Huntsman is set to become the world’s second largest TiO2 producer.

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Pricing News

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Features

  • Mineral industry gears up for post-summer activity

    Wednesday, 03 September 2014

    Potash miners unlikely to accept price erosion; Soda ash prices buoyed by capacity decreases; Substitution threat looms over zircon prices

  • Raw materials trends in refractories

    Wednesday, 03 September 2014

    Over the last two years IM has reported on the shifting trends in the refractories industry, with China looking to reduce wastage and increase energy efficiency. Ted Dickson* explores these various trends and asks – how will this shift impact raw material supply?

  • Summer holiday for agriminerals, no break for mineral sands

    Tuesday, 29 July 2014

    Agrimineral demand recovery continues as flame retardant chemical price growth stutters; no gains in sight for mineral sands

  • Shifting sands: substitution and expanding markets

    Friday, 27 June 2014

    Zircon and its derivatives face an uncertain future owing to competition from substitute materials, but where is additional demand expected to come from? Kasia Patel, Chief Reporter, investigates.

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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.

Supply

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

Markets 

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.