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  • Environmental regulations threaten zirconium supply from China

    Tuesday, 20 March 2018

    Stringent new rules in China will force production shutdowns, zircon junior Alkane says.

  • Price Briefing March 9-15

    Friday, 16 March 2018

    Chinese flake graphite prices stable on slow demand, weak demand weighs on Chinese magnesia market, zircon buyers mull substitution amid Q2 price increases, weak demand weighs on Chinese magnesia market

  • Zircon prices increase earlier than predicted

    Friday, 16 March 2018

    Zircon prices have risen amid supply tightness and contract negotiations for second-quarter supply, with leading producers as well as Indonesia and China the leading drivers of the increase, which has taken some parts of the market by surprise.

  • PPG lifts some coatings prices, citing rising TiO2 costs

    Thursday, 15 March 2018

    Increased prices for raw materials, including titanium dioxide, have spurred PPG to raise prices for its automobile manufacturing customers.

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Pricing News

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  • Separation anxiety: Ceramic membranes seek commercial niche

    Friday, 26 January 2018

    While porous ceramic membranes for nanofiltration of liquids have been widely adopted, take-up of dense ceramic membranes for gas separation has been relatively slow to follow. IM Correspondent Rose Pengelly looks into this lesser known corner of the technical ceramics industry and discovers some of its most promising applications.

  • The sands of time: TiO2 feedstocks to 2020

    Friday, 26 January 2018

    The balance in the market for titanium dioxide (TiO2) feedstock has been in constant flux throughout history, and 2017 was no exception. Industrial Minerals Correspondent Cameron Perks takes a look at supply, demand, and prices throughout 2017, as well as what we should look out for as we approach 2020.

  • 2017: The year of the supply squeeze

    Thursday, 14 December 2017

    If 2016 should be remembered with a shudder, then 2017 will be remembered as the year when it became harder to source minerals. The supply situation changed for many minerals in the markets that Industrial Minerals covers, not least because many producers were simply shut down by strict environmental laws in China, or found it harder to source materials due to demand-side challenges, consultant editor Siobhan Lismore-Scott writes.

  • Zircon 101: where will new demand come from?

    Monday, 02 October 2017

    Zircon is important - and some would argue irreplaceable - in markets such as ceramics, which accounts for around 50% of demand. But, as Cameron Perks, IM Correspondent, discovers, there are new sources of interest within that same industry - and demand projections vary wildly.

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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.