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TiO2/Zircon

Latest News

  • Lynas passes regulatory hurdle, posts improvements in Q1 results

    Friday, 17 October 2014

    The results and the positive report from the IAEA must be a welcome breath of fresh air for the company and it comes within the first few months of CEO, Amanda Lacaze’s, appointment.

  • AMMG completes JV for South West Titanium Project

    Friday, 17 October 2014

    The JV with Midas is part of the company’s strategy to spin out its priority projects to allow it to focus on the development of its HPA project. It will also bring the company one step closer to becoming a mineral sands supplier as Midas evaluates the economic viability of the project.

  • Kenmare sales increase 24% as Iluka negotiations continue

    Friday, 17 October 2014

    The company’s total mineral sands shipments have seen an increase over the third quarter owing to stabilising zircon demand and improved economic activity in the US, which is driving TiO2 demand. However, strong TiO2 demand in China is failing to materialise into higher feedstock sales as the country continues to develop its own supply.

  • Kenyan government moves to challenge Kwale County’s proposed mineral sands tax

    Friday, 17 October 2014

    Miners in Kwale County including Australia’s Base Resources have welcomed the national government’s intervention in the royalty plan, which the company says will damage its business and investment in the region generally if it is allowed to go ahead.

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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.