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  • Australian mining: Down but not under

    Thursday, 22 October 2015

    The Australian resources sector is adjusting to lower commodity prices, which have necessitated a revision of cost structures and spending plans. IM gets a feel for the industry’s sentiments and looks at how the country’s miners are making plans to do business in a post-supercycle environment.

  • New South Wales maps out industrial mineral opportunities

    Thursday, 22 October 2015

    The eastern Australian state of NSW is home to a large number of highly prospective industrial mineral deposits. Cameron Perks and David Forster* outline how the Geological Survey of New South Wales is producing an updated map of the region’s geology in order to showcase its potential to investors, geologists and the wider community.

  • TiO2: False bottom

    Saturday, 26 September 2015

    Repeated predictions of a return to health in the titanium dioxide pigments and feedstock industries have so far disappointed market participants. James Sean Dickson, Reporter, examines the industry and considers what might be necessary to bring about a brighter future.

  • Ukraine’s TiO2 industry buckles under pressure

    Saturday, 26 September 2015

    Weakness in the domestic economy, international sanctions against Crimean companies following Russian annexation and poor demand for feedstocks has pushed Ukrainian TiO2 to the edge, Vladislav Vorotnikov, IM Correspondent, discovers.

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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.