TiO2/Zircon

Latest News

  • PPG “not anticipating TiO2 price rises”

    Friday, 18 July 2014

    The indication that TiO2 prices are not expected to increase, made by one of the world’s largest paint producers, will chill the bones of many mineral sands producers, as most have been predicting that prices will start to creep up. However, as Bunch point outs, demand for coatings is increasing globally.

  • European Commission launches GI public consultation on non-food products

    Thursday, 17 July 2014

    The commission aims to counter the misuse of GIs, and could affect the ceramics and natural stone industries, which utilise raw materials such as kaolin, zircon, TiO2 and limestone.

  • Iluka sees revenues drop 10% as price recovery fails to materialise

    Wednesday, 16 July 2014

    Although the company saw an increase in sales for its rutile products, low zircon prices and demand hit company revenues over the first half of 2014, and the market is expected to continue at this rate throughout the year.

  • Tronox Mineral Sands reaches labour agreements for South Africa mines

    Wednesday, 16 July 2014

    Tronox has peacefully and professionally come to its labour agreements with the mining unions – a stark contrast ton the many reports of industrial action seen elsewhere. This means, importantly, that there will be no disruption to the supply of TiO2 feedstock from South Africa.

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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.