Muscovite mica in China

Published: Friday, 20 February 2009

China has among the largest mica production base in the world and has enjoyed a booming demand through construction. In 2008 however, the country had to deal with the impact of Beijing Olympic Games and the more recent global economic slump. IM interviewed Ren Zhaohui, general sales manager at Hebei Chida Manufacturer & Trade Co. Ltd, the north China mica producer, to see how production and markets have reacted

Firstly, can you outline details of your mica operation and any recent developments?

As a mineral miner, processer and supplier, Hebei Chida Manufacturer & Trade Co. Ltd is located in downtown Shijiazhuang city, 30km from the main muscovite mine of the area. We export more than 10,000 tonnes of different mica grades every year.

Following trends in the market, the company did a large quantity test and installed different kinds of curing machines to produce high value powder product used in filler markets. It solved the iron content problem and larger particles, which are the main technical problems in filler usage.

The Birds Nest Stadium of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the great symbol of the Chinese construction boom driving mica consumption last year.  The mica industry is facing a host of new challenges now. Courtesy Kwok W Wan 

Where are the major mining regions of Chinese mica and what is the present production situation?

Most of the muscovite mine is concentrated in Shjiazhuang, Hebei province of China. The main mine is named Wenshan, Lubaishan in Lingshou county, and other mines are mainly in Xintang county.

In 2008, because of the Beijing Olympic Games, most of the mine production was stopped and was not recovered until the end of 2008.

According to the official news, there are about 4m. tonnes of mica in the Wenshan mine and 1.1m. tonnes in Lubaishan. As for the Xingtang mine there is no formal and exact geological data available.

What impact did the Beijing Olympic Games 2008 have on mica’s markets?

During April to July 2008, because of the concern over the short supply of mica production during the Beijing Olympic Games period, most of our Japanese customers increased their normal purchasing quantity and bought more goods for stock.

This caused the price to be increased sharply. The free-on-board (FOB) export price was increased about 150% from $120/tonne to $300/tonne.

After the Beijing Olympic Games, the market price for mica decreased gradually although raw material supply was not changed to be good, the buyers decreased their order.

The market price for mica now has decreased to an FOB price of $260/tonne. It is not expected, however, to fall lower than $200/tonne again due to the higher and higher costs to exploit the mines and production costs in China.

What do you see as the future direction for mica production in China?

Japanese mainly rely on mica from China and most use it to make building material. Owing to the unstable situation in 2008 and the more and more expensive price of mica, most Japanese customers are trying to find a way to cut down on the quantity of mica used, the cost of building material, and to face the “dead-alive” market in 2009.

Considering the limited resources of mica, all the market factors contribute to push mica towards an added value direction. Mica’s main use is as a filler in cosmetics, as a resin, in plastics and pigments. For example, used as a filler in plastic components of notebook and laptop computers as its is characteristically light weight and anti-static.