During the 42 years that IM has covered the
industrial minerals business, we have had the privilege of
being in contact and maintaining rapport with many experts
and their companies in our efforts to keep track of market
In this, our 500th issue of IM,
we wished to review the industry and its outlook, and decided
to invite a selection of our key contacts to offer some
comments on how they view the industrys evolution, its
way forward, and any particular memories. Our questions were
- Choosing over the last four decades, which are
the chief factors that have had the most impact on the
industrial minerals business and why?
- Going forward, what do you see as the primary
challenges and opportunities in the industrial minerals
business and why?
- Describe one memorable event or moment(s) in your
career in the industrial minerals business that stands out or
is special to you this from any viewpoint eg.
pioneering, dramatic, influential, amusing.
The response was excellent, and we would like to extend our
gratitude to all those that participated. We are sure that you
will find the following comments of great interest, and a
source for continued discussion.
Gerard Buffière, chief executive officer,
| Gerard Buffière spent a large part of
his career in the electronics industry in various
international management posts before joining Imetal in
1998, which became Imerys after the takeover of English
China Clays in April 1999, and the subsequent divestiture
of all non-mineral Imetal businesses. He was executive
vice president of Imerys until the end of 2002, and
became chief executive officer of Imerys on 1 January
a) First and foremost, the globalisation of the industrial
minerals playground. China emerged as a major force in many
minerals, then retracted somewhat over the last few quarters,
leaving more room for traditional western companies. At the
same time, new countries developed some very strong positions
in certain minerals. This is the case for Imerys
production of andalusite in South Africa and kaolin in Brazil.
Some of those new deposits with high natural quality and
relatively low extraction costs put pressure on the
profitability of traditional deposits in Europe and the
b) This globalisation was parallel to the rapid development
of markets using different types of materials from those
traditionally supplied by our industries, as is the case for
the development of ceramics in China but also, to a lesser
extent, for the paint industry.
c) A third element is the phenomenon, not specific to the
mineral industry, of the brutal transition from a flattish cost
world to a major inflationary environment in the last five
years. Costs of energy, freight, and other major items reached
summits in 2008 that were not foreseeable. It is worth pointing
out that industrial minerals only joined in the general pricing
rally to a minor extent.
d) A fourth factor is the still relatively high degree of
fragmentation in the industrial minerals industry with only a
handful of large companies. Among those, very few companies
have a global approach with a large portfolio of minerals.
However, they remain dwarfed by large, worldwide mining
companies. So there is still room for consolidation in the
industrial minerals sector. Such consolidation becomes all the
more necessary as customers are consolidating very fast. This
is obvious for the steel and paper industries, but also for the
paint and ceramics industries.
Challenges & opportunities
a) The increasing need for sustainability is completely
changing the way companies operate. Industrial behaviours that
were considered good practice a few decades ago are now
unacceptable to both the public and the regulatory authorities.
Environmental protection and conservation of biodiversity are
progressively becoming factors that need to be fully integrated
into operating plans. This requires new types of talents for
the mining companies and also generally increases the costs of
b) Dealing with volatility: cost spikes followed by brutal
collapses and variations in freight rates by a factor of at
least five lead to major disruptions back and forth in the
competitive position of some minerals in a given market. Very
often, the freight costs decide which minerals will be used
where. This is particularly true for minerals like clays for
ceramic tiles that undergo less processing than others after
extraction. Currency movements have similar impact. In this
changing environment, global players may have an advantage as
they can adapt rapidly to the changes.
c) A third challenge stems from the current economic crisis.
Shutdowns and relocations of customer plants can radically
change the economics of our business. As our sector is
capital-intensive, our companies are generally managed for the
medium or long term. I am convinced that we must continue to
run for the long term, but at the same time we have to adapt
constantly, without letting our products turn into commodities.
So we must maintain a significant R&D effort, invest for
the long term in mineral reserves or development projects, and
be able to hold and even increase sales prices in a
deflationary environment because we dont jack them up in
d) Dealing with regulation: very heavy regulations are being
implemented in the world. Europe is certainly giving the
example. In the coming years, the industry will have to cope
with the implementation of REACH, a new mining waste directive
and the Emission Trading Scheme. This list is certainly not
exhaustive. These regulations require heavy workload and
investments from companies. Scale effects are increasingly
e) Opportunities: lower energy costs, if correctly reflected
by the energy industry, will be an opportunity. Also,
industrial minerals are very often a way to reduce both costs
and the environmental footprint of finished products. This may
be an advantage compared with other solutions, at a time where
these two factors are of paramount importance. Last but not
least, the mineral industry has a tradition of sound R&D
effort and value-added products, and this will certainly help
find new solutions to the above challenges.
The strongest memory for me is certainly the integration of
English China Clay. Definitely a cultural shock between a
company that was relatively new in the sector (the former
Imetal) and the world leader that we acquired at that time. The
biggest challenge here was to turn the strategy from high
volume, low price to a value-added, high technical content,
pricing for value strategy.
This was only made possible by a very strong restructuring
plan. ECC probably had more technology than any industrial
minerals players, yet customers were not rewarding that value.
That led to a situation where the business was undervalued and
had to be acquired by another company. We found extremely good
people at ECC, and they are the teams which run our company now
in many places. Making that change happen was a big
| Dietmar Alber joined Hosokawa Alpine in 1986:
from 1992-1996 he was responsible for the sales of all
micronisation and air classification machines and systems
into Asia and Middle East; from 1997 he was area manager
for Asian and South American markets of the Minerals
& Metal Division. He has been involved in the
implementation of more than 300 processing plants for
minerals, mainly for GCC, talc, quartz, feldspar, and
Dietmar Alber, general manager, Mineral and Metal Division,
Hosokawa Alpine AG, Germany
The fast development from telex via fax to the possibilities
of the internet today, has caused easy communication, a very
wide market transparency for everybody and effected the
globalisation tremendously. The trend to globalisation did not
stop in front of the industrial mineral business. It created
not only global mineral players, but also can be made
responsible for a worldwide exchange of knowledge in mining,
mineral processing and especially minerals applications.
This is still driving many companies and even countrys
policies, away from simple raw material supply to the ones who
are adding value at the source of exploiting industrial
minerals. All this gives the industrial mineral market a
permanent movement, driven by shortage, oversupply, cheaper
and/or better substituting industrial minerals.
Another important role over the last few decades is the
intensive R&D efforts of industrial mineral suppliers and
users in new industrial applications.
Challenges & opportunities
Today I see the challenges of the industrial mineral
industry in the development of application oriented new uses,
the development of nano-scaled minerals and their
The application oriented industrial mineral producers, who
are very close cooperating with their clients, will be the ones
gaining now and in the future. Chemical additives will play an
important role for linking the mineral powders to any other
material and to make nano applications possible.
Energy efficient mineral processing, selection of processing
locations with optimised site located factors, and generally
the topic logistics will play a dominant role in
the industrial mineral industry in the future.
Fascinating China: since I started my career as a sales
engineer for micronisation and air classifying machines and
systems more than two decades ago, the most fascinating aspect
for me was the development of China. Visiting almost quarterly
in the eighties and nineties to China, one could feel in every
trip the big boost China was experiencing and in the same way
the industrial mineral industry did too.
| Alan Williams is head of Raw Materials and
Glass Compositions R&D in the NSG Group with
technical responsibility for sourcing, evaluating and
trouble shooting glass-making raw materials world
Alan Williams, head of Raw Materials & Glass Compositions
(BP R&D), Pilkington NSG Group, UK
Major growth and the emergence of global companies in both
the float glass industry and, to a growing extent, in the
associated industrial minerals industry are the key
developments over the last three decades. In the last 20 years
the market for float glass has roughly tripled. The NSG Group,
that acquired Pilkington in 2006, now has manufacturing
operations in 29 countries spread widely across the world.
Some of our industrial minerals suppliers have also become
more global but many high quality local suppliers remain. The
NSG Group has become much more centralised both technically and
Raw material specifications have become more global and
technical risks reduced by implementing best practices based on
global experience collected centrally. Most suppliers have
radically improved their quality control systems but problems
remain with some suppliers in certain countries.
Challenges & opportunities
Going forward, the current challenge for our minerals
suppliers is to adjust to the severe economic downturn and to
reduce costs; as the glass industry itself is having to do in
order to stay in business.
Looking further ahead, the growth in the various types of
glass for solar cell applications will present major technical
challenges for low iron raw materials production, especially in
regions where these resources are scarce. Innovation in iron
reduction in large tonnage processing plants will be required
and also improved logistics to avoid iron pick up.
Environmental considerations may require some selective
tightening of specifications and the use of novel
During my 32 years in the glass industry the most
professional satisfaction has been gained from new build sites
in countries previously without float glass. You take the raw
materials requirements from a blank sheet of paper and then
follow through all the way to the first production of world
quality glass. This involves intense local sourcing activity
and sometimes opening up new quarries or major upgrades.
Piet Ferreira, South Africa (recently retired of Idwala
Holdings (Pty) Ltd)
| Before retiring in December 2008, Piet had
worked for the Lime and Industrial Minerals business of
Idwala Industrial Holdings (Pty) Ltd (until 1997
part of the Anglo-Alpha/Holcim Cement Group) for 37
years. Piet was chief executive officer of the business
for most of his career, managing production facilities
and marketing lime and minerals.
The perception in the early 1980s/1990s existed that
industrial minerals was the area in which good business could
be done without the major capital investment being required
compared to primary industries/mining. In South Africa most big
mining houses and other companies formed industrial
minerals divisions. They soon, however, learned that
volumes and profitability was limited in this business. They
all disappeared from the scene and it was left to those which
had slowly developed and built up their business to continue in
I believe that the Industrial Minerals association and
magazine made an impact in placing industrial minerals on
the map. The standard of the conferences since I started
attending in 1982 has risen steadily, and the last few
conferences I attended were really worthwhile.
The emergence of calcium carbonate as such a valuable
industrial mineral (I believe mainly due to the development
done by Omya) definitely made a contribution to improving
quality and efficiencies in industries such as paints/coatings,
plastics, the paper industry, and other speciality industries.
Its use for its chemical composition in industries such as
glass, agriculture, and building industries should also not be
There is of course the unique aspect of the industrial
mineral business that know-how is not readily
shared. It is not like the cement or lime or similar industries
where production techniques and products are quite
It was always interesting for me to listen to presentations
at conferences where some great new discovery or production
technique was presented, which afterwards never
Challenges & opportunities
The main challenge and opportunity I believe remains to find
new applications for industrial minerals to improve the quality
and cost of production of other expensive commodities, as was
done in the past in the paper and plastics industries.
The application of calcium carbonate and other industrial
minerals in large volumes into newsprint and Kraft paper, as
well as into plastics, other than PVC and polyolefins, are good
examples of the challenges and opportunities.
When Sappi agreed to convert to alkaline sizing using our
calcium carbonate in 1990 was probably a defining moment in our
industrial minerals business, as the volumes involved were so
much larger than that used in other applications that it
allowed a wider base to operate from.
In this, Omya (our technical and marketing advisors) was
most instrumental, but at that stage paper filling was limited
mainly to the use of slurries. I believe we were pioneers in
producing a GCC in powder form for paper filling, which had to
be made down, which was not very easy. It took very innovative
measures to convince Sappi to continue with the alkaline sizing
project. It, however, all ended well for both parties with good
business relationships maintained.
Attending IM conferences through the years
was also influential in my career. Not only did it allow for
networking and friendships to be developed with people
throughout the world, but it also afforded me the opportunity
of overseas travel, visiting Omya operations and industries I
would never have been exposed to.
| Fotis began his career as marketing manager for
magnesia and basic refractories at FIMISCO, Athens,
1974-1984. From 1985-2006 he was managing director
Possehl SA, Athens, sourcing and sales of refractory
minerals. Since 2007 he has been managing director of
Magmacom, sourcing and sales of industrial minerals with
a focus on dead burned and fused magnesia, calcined
bauxite, fused alumina and related products.
Fotis Kandianis, managing director, Magmacom SA,
I consider that the past four decades have been marked by
the technological progress in steelmaking processes the
transition from the Open Hearth Furnace to modern BOF and EAF
practices with substantial secondary steel refining. These have
affected greatly the refractories industries and the
requirements for the raw and processed minerals used in the
production and type of refractories.
There has also been development in refractories used in the
cement industries but this came about due to environmental
reasons rather than as a result of the need to improve
production processes as in the case of steel making.
The other factor that has changed the map of the industrial
minerals supply is the emergence of China as the worlds
big player in the supply of raw and processed industrial
minerals and in the past few years as the number one producer
I was involved with the sourcing of products such as dead
burned magnesia, calcined bauxite and later on fused magnesia
and graphite from China from the beginning of that era, and it
must be noted that in the past three decades we have witnessed
leaps of progress and development in China and the
transformation of that country during that time.
I consider that the remarkable industrial development of
China by far overshadows the appearance of other countries such
as that of Brazil with great performance in the field of mining
and industrial expansion.
Challenges & opportunities
The challenges today for the future of the industry in
general, I think, have been shaped by the on-going economic
crisis gripping the world which has not had any equivalent
during the past four decades. Even the financial crisis of the
late 1920s was not so devastating as the present crisis, which
can only be imagined as a worldwide tsunami that has swept over
all the countries.
The challenge therefore facing us is how the producers on
the one hand and the users on the other may find the way to
survive and in the process allow the survival of the necessary
services providers, be it traders or shipping and
forwarding companies and related operators.
One must also include the media that undertake the challenge
to keep us updated with the news and developments in the
industry, an invaluable asset for those wishing to survive.
There is no doubt that the much shrunk demand and production
will force some producers or operators to abandon the active
business. The imperative need to cut costs will force
innovation and improvisation and this will ensure the survival
of the progress-minded operators but will also be to the
benefit of future generations.
I recall a meeting in the early years of my career in the
field of refractories. I was negotiating with representatives
of a state organisation in a Balkan country that at that time,
in the early 1970s, was responsible for the purchase of all the
refractories and materials for all the industries in that
country. The subject was the supply of refractories for glass
I must note that at that time, the industrial group that I
was representing, although a big concern in Greece, was young
in the field of refractories production and there were no
references to furnish in support of the performance of the
proposed refractory qualities except that the technology was
well established and the production facilities new.
One of the delegates said to me quite naturally: Well,
it will be necessary to offer some quantity free of charge so
that the plant can install the refractory bricks and test their
performance. That suggestion was obviously not in line
with what we had in mind, and I had to come up with a
respectable way to decline, so I simply said: This is not
practical. The specific refractories have a campaign of seven
years in the glass furnace and my boss expects me to report to
him the outcome of our discussions and your decision before I
Needless to say that this was not the first discussion that
we had had on the subject and the main issue up to that moment
had been the price, not the quality and performance. It took a
few more days of negotiation but we finally agreed on the
contract. I recall that in the following years, out of genuine
interest, I had tried to extract whatever information was
possible on the fate of the refractories but the system was so
intentionally secretive that I finally gave up accepting that,
if there were any problems, we would certainly have heard about
May I take this opportunity to say that I have been an avid
reader of the magazine since my involvement in the field of
industrial minerals in the early 1970s, and I appreciate and
value the contribution that IM makes through
the magazine and the many well organised meetings and
congresses as well as publications. I also note with pleasure
that the recent innovations that IM has made with the
electronic updates and news flashes are great.
Oliver Koegel, managing director, Europe Commerce SA,
| Oliver Koegel, a ceramics engineer, with his
father Helmuth Koegel, manages the family owned company
Europe Commerce SA, in Luxembourg.
Industrial minerals have had their development in the past
in the area where they occurred and were thus available.
Examples include: clays in the Westerwald, Germany, production
of ceramics; iron ore in Luxembourg, steel production. In a
certain way it was an exclusive situation, which allowed for
the making of good money.
Consumers of minerals were developing new and better
products, and thus new and better minerals were required. New
markets opened. Traditional players invested and new ones
entered as the business was considered profitable and with
Competition started, and even before anyone was talking
about globalisation it happened in the early days of the
minerals world. The business of users of minerals also changed
in the same way, and global competition commenced in this
sector as well.
However, margins were reduced, some went out of business,
others left the business, and we were in the period of
concentration on core business. (The exception
confirms the rule.)
China emerged, and dumped minerals in which nobody outside
the EU dared to invest. M&A started, unprofitable sites
Traditional structures can survive as all the investments
are paid for and written off. At current margins, neither new
investments can be earned back, nor will it be possible to earn
back expensive takeovers in a reasonable timeframe.
Since the financial crisis, borrowing has become difficult.
Growth will stop or be negative. Capacities have to be adjusted
to demand and cost has to be reduced.
Challenges & opportunities
Going forward there is a short-term issue on cash
management. It can have secondary negative effects but we will
have to live with whatever they will be. An average level of
reliable business volume has to be defined for the coming
It will be important that the remaining activity will be
profitable to allow in a first step to increase the equity
positions of the companies, to make them stronger for changing
markets, to be able to invest in R&D to develop new
products and to allow for internal growth by investments.
Partnerships between companies will become important in
order to share the risks and to allow for developments. The
business of minerals is medium and long term planning and
investments. It cannot work properly if it is a spot
The memorable events in my career have always been related
to personal relationships with people who mostly have been
strong characters and have had a lot of experience. Its
people who make things work at the end of the day, and
its nice if you can rely on someone.
In todays world, unfortunately rely on has
often be substituted by depend on.
| Bernhard celebrated his 45th anniversary in the
raw material business on 15 May 2007. Bernhard joined
Frank & Schulte GmbH in 1962, the Essen based trading
company for 38 years. In 2000, he joined the founding
team of Cofermin Rohstoffe GmbH which has since become a
mayor player in the international ore and minerals
Bernhard Kruger, managing partner, Cofermin Rohstoffe GmbH
& Co. KG, Germany
When I received the request to write a few lines on the
occasion of the 500th issue of Industrial
Minerals magazine, my first thought was: who has been in
the minerals business longer, IM or me?
Throughout the years IM has become an
important element in the world of industrial minerals. Trends,
tendencies, prices, new product developments, processing,
logistics, people etc. are well covered. Most of the time IM is
able to tap the right sources of information and sometimes even
manages to shed light into the niches of the market.
Throughout my 47 years in the industrial mineral business I
believe the biggest influence on the development of the market
was the globalisation and the transparency of the business,
something that was of course propelled by ever newer means of
communication. My involvement in the chrome ore business for
example started in 1968.
We bought the ore from Industrial Minerals Ltd (Mr Horst
Kollrepp), later on from Engelhard Hannovia located in
Liechtensten via Philip Brothers in Zug and Derby in
Johannesburg. There was absolutely no contact with the producer
of the ore at the time Rand Mines Ltd no
discussions about quality, marketing etc. It was simply take it
or leave it.
Today this has completely changed and we are in permanent
contact with the producer now Samancor Ltd, which took
over Rand Mines Ltd and there is an intensive exchange
of information between the parties resulting in a permanent
improvement of quality and service.
In my opinion, missing transparency in the markets led to
negative developments for producers and consumers. The biggest
challenge and chance in our business is the development of new
products. At Cofermin Rohstoffe we are constantly developing
new sources and products for our customers. This is one of our
Challenges & opporunities
In many segments of industry there are endless possibilities
to utilise natural industrial minerals. Logically this aspect
has been covered by IM in all 500 issues
published so far. Early on in my career, I personally was
interested and fascinated by the so called by-products
the term recycling was not often used at that time.
However, the growth of the world population, the raising
industrialisation and the limits of natural resources will make
the utilisation of those by-products and left-overs
like slags, filter dust, tailings etc. more and more
One very prominent and relatively new example is the
extraction of chrome ore from the tailings generated during the
production of platinum in South Africa. This chrome ore is used
in the production of ferro chome. Taking this process a step
further, Cofermin and Anglo Platinum have jointly developed a
system to extract chromite sand as foundry grade from the
For me personally, the most important and emotional moment
in my career so far was 1 September 2000. On that day I started
my second career in the field of industrial minerals. What had
happened? After 38 years in the industry I simply could not
imagine and accept a life as a retiree. I felt far too young to
stop doing what I loved doing so much. For different reasons
also former Frank & Schulte colleagues and todays
partners were looking for new challenges at the same time.
On the 31 August 2000 we celebrated my official retirement
from F&S with over 100 guests. To everybodys big
surprise we announced the formation of Coferal Minerals GmbH
(today Cofermin Rohstoffe GmbH & Co. KG) during the course
of the celebration. The company started operation the following
day 1 September 2000. At the time I had promised my partners to
stay on for three years. Next year we are celebrating our
10th anniversary! For me the story has an open end,
I still feel too young to retire...!
Lucas Mott, director sales & logistics, minerals
division, Lasselsberger Gesmbh, Austria
| Before joining Lasselsberger, Lucas had been
key account manager Combined Heat & Power
Production Services at Energieversorgung
Niederösterreich AG, Austria, and product manager
Business Area ICPO (Industrial Chemicals and
Polymeres) at Prochema Handelsgesmbh, Austria. In 2002 he
joined Lasselsberger Gesmbh, Austria as director sales
& logistics, Minerals Division covering all EC
countries and Asian markets.
a) Politically: European business has been significantly
impacted by the political changes at the beginning of the
nineties of last century. Not only the German reunification,
but also the break down of the communist systems in CEE
(Central & East Europe) bridged the gap, which has
separated the continent for decades.
More recently CEE countries joined the EC and the Schengen
treaty. One of the key targets of the EU the free
movement of goods and people was implemented to and from
several new member states. As a result more minerals have been
sent and delivered to the markets in total, additional
products have been available making the European continent more
independent on ex-European imports. The community currency Euro
reduces and will reduce the risk of exchange rates even
b) Technologically: next to many other technical
achievements of the last decades (eg. logistics, treatment,
mining technology, GPS) IT technology is one of the key factors
to ensure growth in terms of quality, transparency and
efficiency. The minerals business has become quicker, companies
may react within minutes. Information is more precise (QM) and
availability of knowledge is assured almost all over the globe.
Some companies with very local business might have suffered,
but the vast majority did obtain opportunities not
Challenges & opportunities
The minerals business is confronted with many more aspects
than some years ago. In the European Union new regulations such
as eg. REACH Certification, LCA etc. have become of importance
for the public opinion and the legislation. Minerals business
requires significant impact of energy. A sustainable and
affordable supply of energy is a key question of location,
growth and development of mining companies.
Last but not least, all business is suffering from the
unforeseeable economic crises of today. It is obvious that some
companies will not survive, however, the others will find some
great opportunities in the near future.
Lasselsberger Minerals is the best example of the changes
and opportunities of Europe in the last decades. Starting with
some informal contacts before the changes in CEE, we have
become one of the leading companies in the minerals business on
the continent. I am honoured to have joined and developed this
way. Business life is full of memorable moments when finding
new partners of different cultures, languages, and
Hans-Jürgen Schmidt, Division Manager, High
Performance Minerals, Quarzwerke GmbH, Germany
| Hans-Jürgen started his career in the oil
business before joining Quarzwerke as sales manager in
1990. In 1996 he took over the marketing manager position
of SamQuarz in South Africa. When Quarzwerke withdrew
from South Africa in 2004, he returned to Germany to
become division manager High Performance Fillers, the
Mineral Engineers Division of Quarzwerke.
Globalisation and internationalisation of business has
increased worldwide transparency and thus competition. More and
more customers in Europe are sourcing directly from overseas
and local mining companies had to optimise their performances
and improve the products in quality and consistency.
Not only sourcing moved global but also production
facilities and demands shifted mainly to Asia. Globalising the
whole business might be the call but the risks are plentiful,
based on my own experience.
Increasing administrative demands (including REACH) caused
by governmental institutions have more and more impact on the
ability to continue business. There is a clear tendency towards
lesser appreciation of the mining sector by the public in
However, and despite the enormous changes we have
experienced in business and society during the last four
decades, it is reassuring to know that industrial minerals has
stayed the backbone of the industrial development in
Challenges & opportunities
a) Challenges: we have to improve the awareness for the
importance and the value of mining as an integral part of the
European industry to secure economical welfare and
We have to raise the awareness for the need of
sustainability in mining policy to support a responsible way of
mining and secure the right balance between economics, ecology
and social issues.
b) Opportunities: with the growing development of new
products, we can grow with our customers needs for new
and improved raw materials. This will establish new areas of
business which will compensate for declining traditional
The continuing consolidation of the industrial minerals
market will also give opportunities for medium size enterprises
to develop into niches and capitalise on spin-offs.
The most impressing experience for me was right in the
beginning when I had my first contact with industrial minerals.
It was amazing what was necessary to produce an
ordinary sand. Nowadays I recognise this
incredulous view when I invite guests for a tour through our
plants. The public very often underestimates the technical
know-how and professional expertise needed to supply high
quality and consistent industrial minerals.
| Arvind Singhal is the managing director of
Wolkem India Ltd and also on the board of directors of a
number of other companies of the Group. He has been
associated with industrial minerals for over 40 years and
has varied experience in the field of mining and
processing of industrial minerals, pesticides, electronic
metres, and international trading.
Arvind Singhal, managing director, Wolkem India Limited,
Lower sea freights to and from India have given a boost to
exports and imports of industrial minerals from India . A shift
towards micronised and speciality fillers across all consuming
industries globally has enhanced the demand for such
China as a major industrial mineral exporter has negatively
impacted sales of other countries, while China and Indias
liberalised policy on foreign direct investment, has provided
better choice to customers, helped developing new markets,
applications, shifted the industry to manufacture higher value
fillers/extenders but at the cost of intensified
There has been exponential growth in automobiles, polymers,
paper, and paint industry post liberalisation in countries like
India and China and has added demand for specialty fillers
which has also led to economy of scale operations.
Challenges & opportunities
a) Challenges for Indian miners and processors: freight
costs within India will increase; manufacturing costs within
India will increase; sea freights from India will be higher
than from other countries; sanctioning of new mines within
India will be more difficult.
b) Challenges globally: sea freights will rise; if China is
unable to sustain exports at the level as achieved in past, and
if it devalues its currency, this will shift the global
industrial minerals trade to other countries; environmental
issues pertaining to mining will be more stringent across the
globe; customers will be asking for more stringent quality in
terms of environment standards being fixed for their end
c) Opportunities: mergers, acquisitions amongst the large
industrial minerals miners, processors and traders; Asia
Pacific, South East Asia, India to witness enormous growth, as
manufacturing is shifting to this region and this region is
investing on infrastructure; large industrial mineral miners
and processors will consolidate their mineral portfolio.
James Devlin, managing director, CMP Sales Europe,
| Prior to setting up CMP in 1993, James Devlin
was active in Chinese metals & minerals trading in
Europe at China Industrial Resources Ltd, London, and in
long term metals & minerals
research worldwide with Commodities Research Unit,
Twenty years ago the world of industrial minerals was
dominated by distant suppliers supplying far away markets with
very little understanding of their customers; today the world
has shrunk such that any customer can find and research a
supplier online and instantly ring call them directly.
The consequences for the minerals markets is that suppliers
and customers have become so close together that the once
mighty trading community has all but disappeared and supply
chains have become much more strategic. Consequently, suppliers
have been able to climb the value chain much more quickly than
they could have done even just a few years ago.
When I first came into the minerals game there were hundreds
of small suppliers in China, at least twenty active traders
between China and the rest of the world and literally hundreds
of smaller sized customers. The role of the trader then was to
consolidate vessels full of run of mine unprocessed
material and bring it to the western markets either to
customers with their own integrated processing plants or/and
independent mineral processing companies which redistributed it
as processed mineral to countless other small
Twenty years ago this is how it had always been and was
expected to remain. But since then in every industrial mineral
the same process has occurred.
In the case of bauxite it was CMP (China Mineral Processing
(Tianjin) Ltd) which fundamentally changed the business by
adding the processing value in China and thereby commencing the
long march towards continuous value addition. This was not only
a logical strategy but in hindsight an inevitable reality.
In all minerals this process marked the beginning of the
wholesale move of industrial minerals usage from the west to
the east as the customers of the minerals processing plants in
China inevitably moved production into China. Twenty years ago
traders scoffed at customers buying processed minerals and
premixed and finished products from China; today its a
standard necessity and indeed CMP has exported nearly no run of
mine bauxite to the refractory industry in recent years.
During this period the transfer of production from the west
to the east has profoundly affected every element of almost
every industrial mineral market none more so than
bauxite and magnesite.
Since 1993 I have been working with CMP in China to build up
the sales of processed minerals ex-China into Europe. Since
weve started there has been a fundamental shift in terms
of the balance of sales volume which has shifted from Europe to
Asia and domestic sales in China; Europe once dominant is now
in decline. Markets such as India, Australasia and China, which
were nowhere in 1993, now dominate sales. Not just in volume
but even more so in value.
In respect of China, apart from the afore mentioned
macro-economic changes, in our business, the factors that have
most impacted on the market have been a. Chinese export policy
and b. Chinese domestic policy.
Chinese export policy for our main product line bauxite was,
twenty years ago, massively pro-export; exports attracted a VAT
rebate and a foreign exchange subsidy. Today, however, the
Ministry of Foreign Trade has imposed a gradual constricting
policy which has centred around the imposition of export taxes
and VAT plus an overall restriction in the total quantity of
material allowed to be exported.
This policy has been massively disadvantageous to CMP
because CMP has invested in a state of the art large scale
processing plant in China which due to this policy has been
unable to reach the volume that it could have done without such
Furthermore, the systematic cost advantage of processing the
minerals in China has to a large extent been nullified by these
extra taxes and export fees. In addition the current
tonnage allocation system has kept alive many small
exporters whose only involvement in the business is merely to
receive and sell their export quotas; this system takes no
account of investment nor capability, nor value added as it is
based on a crude quantity basis and as such discriminates very
negatively against those like CMP which have invested in both
assets and strategy and marketing. It is the only factor which
keeps alive many small weak companies at the expense the
serious players. It is also a disincentive to investment in the
sector in China.
I do not believe the current export tax and license system
is sustainable in any of Chinas industrial minerals. If
this policy does not change the inevitable result will be that
there will be a significant loss of market for all Chinese
minerals that fall under this policy and in particular bauxite
and magnesite. Unfortunately, as with everything, Chinese
influences outside China have negligible effect on Chinese
Chinese government domestic policy towards domestic
industrial minerals production has changed from benign
indifference (twenty years ago) to (today) too much
micro-management. The main drivers of this change have been
firstly the determination of the central government to reduce
the appalling pollution created by unregulated heavy industry
which is very laudable.
The second factor has been the (understandable) reaction to
the appalling and continuous loss of life within the mining
industry in China, dominated by recurring and serious coal
mining accidents. In recent years large scale mining accidents
in most central Chinese provinces were common and many lead to
The result has been the dismissal of a many provincial
governors and their replacement by central government mandarins
whose policy remit has been to stamp out industrial accidents
and illegal mining .
The consequence of this has been that a large part of the
production base has been shut down without being replaced not
withstanding that no larger scale safe and efficient mines have
been developed to replace this loss in capacity. In bauxite and
in some other minerals the mining industry in China is
seriously under developed with very inefficient mining and low
levels of investment.
Challenges & opportunities
I cannot imagine that this will continue but it can only
change if domestic Chinese policy allows. In this respect two
policy agendas prevail: the (traditional communist) doctrine of
self sufficiency (in resources) and the desire to reduce
pollution set against the necessity of employment maximisation
in order to preserve social stability (and therefore the
survival of the communist party). The same dilemma prevails
across the board for minerals and metals in China, particularly
for bauxite and power based industries.
For industrial minerals today these policies are conflicting
and in recession it may be that employment in a less than safe
mine is a lesser evil than unemployment. World markets of many
industrial minerals will be effected by this policy dilemma in
China and in particular on which doctrine will prevail. I
suspect it will be a bumpy road ahead.
Moment that stands out? helping to push the bus on
the Tianjin field trip during IMs
1st Chinese Industrial Minerals Conference, Beijing,
8-10 October 1995.
Alan Roughead, managing director, Queensland Magnesia
Pty Ltd, Australia
| Prior to joining QMAG, Alan Roughead worked for
CSR Ltd for nine years in international sales, marketing,
business development and finance roles. Alan joined QMAG
in 1991 and was general manager, Marketing until end
1999. He was general manager 2000-2004. He was appointed
a director on 17 December 2004.
I only go back three decades in industrial minerals! I think
the biggest impact has been China, particularly in the 1990s
and 2000s. Ill look at it from just a magnesia
perspective but it probably applies to some other industrial
minerals as well.
a) The 1990s: The 1990s saw the emergence of the Chinese
magnesia industry. It started off as a fragmented cottage
industry based on cheap labour with little recognition of
proper safety, environmental and cost accounting standards.
The 1990s was a period of low global steel and refractory
growth and the lack of financial and market discipline by
Chinese producers and international trading companies saw
magnesia exports flood the world market and prices decline
significantly. As a consequence, a considerable amount of
non-Chinese magnesia capacity (DBM and EFM) closed permanently
particularly in Europe, North America and Japan.
b) The 2000s: the 2000s saw the acceleration of Chinas
urbanisation and industrialisation and consequent strong growth
in the Chinese steel and refractory industries. During this
period Chinese magnesia producers consolidated, moved from a
cottage industry to more industrial based business model and
started to place a greater focus on the domestic market and
vertical integration (refractory production).
At the same time, there was a fundamental and permanent
shift in Chinese government policy aimed at conserving scarce
natural resources and energy: elimination of export rebates;
introduction of export taxes; restriction in export licences;
focus on improving safety and environmental standards; RMB
These policy changes coupled with Chinas
industrialisation and integration into the world economy
resulted in higher costs, reduced availability and declining
quality. Following the capacity closures that took place in the
1990s and with limited new capacity added outside of
China, prices increased significantly over the period
Challenges & opportunities
As always, the primary challenge for all magnesia producers
will be controlling cost. This is particularly the case in the
current economic environment.
The primary opportunity will be servicing future growth.
Despite the current downturn in the world economy, we are still
optimistic about the future of the magnesia industry. We think
the developing world (led by China) will continue to drive
world growth over the medium-long term.
At UNITECR in September 2007 we stated that we expected
strong medium to long term growth in magnesia demand from
steel, cement, nickel, copper, cobalt and environmental
markets. This was based on our own internal study which
projected the following growth in magnesia consumption:
- total magnesia growth 4.2% pa (330,000 tpa);
- refractory magnesia growth 3.8% pa (220,000 tpa);
- chemical magnesia growth 5.2% pa (110,000 tpa);
- high value refractory magnesia growth 4.3% (70,000
- high value chemical magnesia growth 15.3% pa (60,000
While 2009 (and possibly 2010) will be down on previous
years, we still stand by these growth forecasts over the
medium-long term. In addition, the significant barriers to
entry remain availability of new deposits, high
greenfields capex requirements, availability of low cost
After almost 20 years in magnesia, I am still waiting for my
memorable and special moment!
| John has handled minerals on a global basis for
many years and has specialised in refractory minerals,
mineral sands, talc, tungsten, calcium carbonate,
pigments, and barytes. He has worked on the LME with
Amalgamated Metal Corp, was MD of Klockner Metals and
Minerals Ltd, Divisional Director of minerals trading at
Fergusson Wild & Co Ltd, (latterly Minelco), and has
been Managing director of Anglo Pacific Minerals Ltd for
the past five years.
John Allen, managing director, Anglo Pacific Minerals Ltd,
I feel that the overall event that has had most impact on
industrial minerals is the shift of industry away from North
America and Western Europe to China, India, and Eastern Europe.
This has had a major impact on consumption and trade patterns.
Trade between Australia and China has gained strongly together
with emerging trade between Africa and the Far East as China
invests in resources not only in Australia but in Africa too.
Major companies such as Rio Tinto are affected by this. This
event has coincided with the rise of China in the steel,
automobile, and other industries which has affected mineral
movements and freights.
Challenges & opportunities
In todays economic circumstances consumers are looking
at alternative supplies of quality minerals at a cheaper cost.
Consumers are moving away from China as China imposes more
licensing and taxes on exports. The pressures are also
financial as major operators are finding it much more difficult
to access credit. This also applies to their customers.
Drilling companies in the oil and gas field now have much less
cash from the banks and their cash flow is based upon $40 per
barrel oil whereas last year it was based on $140 per barrel so
there is much less drilling activity taking place.
Market recovery in housing, automotive and oil/gas are
crucial to increased activity in minerals but it is my opinion
that this will take twelve to eighteen months to begin to
return to anywhere near the norm we have known. The
opportunities are therefore those companies who can be flexible
in locating alternative supplies of quality minerals at cheaper
cost and to supply companies with minerals for higher
technology applications particularly those which have an
environmental impact. The supply of minerals to India will
develop as that nation expands its infrastructure. If terrorism
is sustained in India it will hamper the countrys
There are many events that stand out over my career but the
overall memories are of meeting and working with my close
business associates who have become my good friends. These
include Tom Eisenman of Excalibar Minerals Houston, Raphael Wan
of Topgrand Hong Kong, Mr Gao of Zhanjiang Dong Sheng, Samir
Goenka of Gimpex Chennai, and George Li Gong of Minelco. These
people have helped me tremendously and it has been both a
pleasure and a privilege to work with them. There are many
others across the world and I have found a fantastic
camaraderie amongst the industrial minerals fraternity whether
competitors or not. I also feel that Industrial
Minerals magazine has done a tremendous job for the
industry and we should all be proud to have had such a great
team working with us over the many years.
Zoltan Tanyi, managing director, and Margit
Tóth, commercial director, Motim Electrocorundum Ltd,
| Zoltan Tanyi managing director and Margit
Tóth commercial director, Motim Electrocorundum
From our point of view the most significant impacts
affecting our business success are the following: having to
secure raw material (feedstock) supply with appropriate quality
and reasonable commercial conditions. Maintaining alternative
sources is also a must. It caused a lot of difficulty for us
that certain quality raw material could be purchased recently
exclusively from China.
Our technology being rather energy intensive, the
availability and price of energy (electricity) is also a
deciding factor for us. The pricing of energy bearers in
general has a great impact on the success of the industrial
minerals sector. The concentration of industry also put an
imprint on the business. Especially for smaller players
(suppliers) the global purchasing policy of the
international enterprises is really challenging.
After an exceptionally successful year of 2008 all of a
sudden we are faced with the economic crisis at the beginning
of 2009. I am confident everybody knew deep down that the
fruitful business of the recent years could not last forever,
but nobody was able to foresee the suddenness and size of the
downturn. After a period in 2008 when everybody was sometimes
close to losing common sense, we are on earth again in
Challenges & opportunities
We are facing challenging times and have to adapt to the new
unhealthy economic environment and be flexible in applying the
necessary measures, even those are sometimes unpleasant. To
make the situation even worse, the producers of electrofused
minerals in Europe (especially in case of white fused alumina)
have to face increasing and more aggressive Chinese penetration
of the market.
On the contrary, what is good is that during these difficult
times one can learn a lot which is a real asset for the future,
and there might be more time available to conclude R&D and
In spite of my relatively short history in the industrial
minerals field, there occurred some really remarkable events.
However, none of them could be compared to the economic crisis
of 2009. The astonishing aspect of the downturn has been its
swiftness and far reaching effects. There is hardly any
industrial player worldwide that could be exempt of all the bad
effects and their inevitable consequences. What is really
amusing and dramatic at the same time to me is that there are
so many interpretations of the situation, but no clear way out
Murray Lines, managing director, Stratum Resources Ltd,
| Murray Lines has worked in the minerals sector
in Asia Pacific for around 25 years and is now based in
Sydney. He worked with Commercial Minerals for many years
and founded Stratum Resources in 1997. Most of his
projects involve supply and demand studies, both regional
and global, along with due diligence work in a variety of
minerals and metals.
Rationalisation of mineral producers (eg. Sibelco/Unimin,
Imerys, Omya, BASF, Carmeuse). It has been mainly a matter of
the biggest players acquiring the small-midsized company and
operations. Multi-minerals and multiple country operations have
become the norm.
Improved machinery such as ceramic-lined ball mills, and
modern air separators that can cut down to a few microns,
improved spiral separation technology and mineral agglomeration
technology involving heavy minerals (capacity to extract
WIM-style deposits), new titanium feedstock technology under
development (eg. AUSPAC process).
The gradual shift of local manufacturing capacity from
Europe, USA to Asia, principally China and some of its
neighbours, eg. Vietnam.
The change from China being a large exporter of such
minerals as fluorspar, (rare earths) to an importer of iron
ores and coal (bauxite possibly). Also, unprecedented and rapid
expansion of Chinese investment in overseas mineral resources
(eg. petroleum, iron ore and coal) and in related
The continuation of Australia as a source of some critical
raw materials including non-metallic, metallic, and energy.
Some exciting new developments are underway and will have a
beneficial impact both for the producers and end-users.
Challenges & opportunities
The capacity of China in particular to maintain high levels
of industrial production in the face of environmental
challenges involving the sustainable use of its air, water and
Resolving challenges involving territorial disputes and
dictatorial regimes (eg. Myanmar) in the South East Asia region
and their political consequences on trade relationships. Some
of this investment is serving to entrench corrupt regimes to
the detriment of local populaces who gain little from such
investment increase sovereign risk to
external investors through potential for violent overthrow.
The potential for increased agricultural production in Asia
(food, biofuels) and the associated demand for such fertilisers
as potash and good examples of these are in Thailand and
Australia are being developed.
To identify new mineral provinces or regions that might host
industrial minerals as traditional sources of these minerals
become depleted or unavailable for extraction.
Improved logistics and mineral separation technologies to
increase viability of extracting mineral resources from distant
locations and or low grade resources (high grade resources with
detrimental impurities, eg. high-silica bauxite).
The most satisfying part of being involved in the industrial
minerals sector has been the opportunity to travel to many part
of the world on various projects and attend some of the IM
conferences in places such as Paris, Denver, and Athens. These
visits have enabled me to meet many interesting people,
including numerous individuals who have become friends and
associates with whom to be involved in a wide range of mineral
projects ranging from the worlds largest talc mines to
Some of the most memorable trips were to evaluate limestone
operations on Sulawesi Island, a very remote part of Indonesia
as well as to visit silica flour deposits on Camarines Sur,
across the bay from Naga city in the Philippines.
Another highlight was to visit Milos Island following the
IM19 Athens Congress where we viewed the largest bentonite and
perlite operations in Europe on a small but very historic Greek
Island. Visiting remote parts of Sichuan and Guangdong
provinces in China to do iron ore and feldspar projects have
also been most memorable occasions.
Geology and minerals are spread worldwide and this often
understated sector of the mining industry allows the
participants to see much of the globe while working.
Ian Wilson, consultant, UK
| Ian worked 28 years for ECC/Imerys as a
geologist and was also general manager of ECC kaolin
operations in Brazil and Spain and involved in GCC
start-up plants in Sweden and China. Since 2002,
Ian has worked as an independent consultant dealing with
a number of industrial minerals and is author of many
a) Globalisation and consolidation within all sectors. A
clear example of this is supply of pigments for paper. In the
early 1970s pigments for paper filler and coating were
dominantly kaolin with major players being English China Clays
and various US producers. Profits were good and the ECC Group
enjoyed a position in the top 100 companies of the London Stock
In the early 1970s, the onset of alkaline paper making saw
the introduction of GCC (ground calcium carbonate) replacing
some kaolin in coating paper and PCC (precipitated calcium
carbonate) replacing kaolin as the major filler based on
production in SMI satellite plants.
Today, Omya is the major supplier of GCC in the world and
Specialty Minerals Inc.(SMI) the major PCC producer. Sources of
high quality kaolin are now sourced from the Amazon Basin and
this has led to the demise of kaolin production from both the
USA and Cornwall.
Today, the major pigment producers are Imerys which produces
kaolin, GCC, and PCC; Omya with GCC and PCC; and SMI for PCC
Omyas success has mainly been its ability,
particularly in Europe, North America, and part of Asia
(Thailand and South Korea) in gaining control of strategic
marble resources. For Imerys its success in GCC has been in
building up strategic resources of marble in key areas such as
Malaysia, Vietnam, and China to support significant growth in
b) Significant growth in all markets but the switch to
emerging markets in Asia, particularly China and India. Also
growth in the Middle East and parts of Africa.
c) China has become a dominant world player in industrial
minerals over the past 15 years. From being an exporter of bulk
material it has evolved into a world leader in the production
of paper, tiles, sanitaryware, porcelain, refractory materials,
rare earths, barytes, talc, wollastonite and other industrial
The trend over the last few years has been to control
exports by a licensing system and withdrawal of tax incentives
and make the domestic market the priority. China continues to
invest heavily in research and development for all minerals and
maximise the value of their own resources.
d) The high cost of commodities over past decade has seen
the exit of major mining companies from industrial minerals.
The void has been filled to some extent by equity groups
investing in industrial minerals they believe that
industrial minerals are at a low point and can only go up.
Equity groups are showing more confidence in the industry than
many of the existing players.
e) The period has seen the growth of new products in all
sectors. This has been backed by high expenditure in R&D,
particularly in China and India.
f) Legislation, environmental constraints have made the
climate for industrial minerals developments in western
countries more challenging and difficult over the last 40
Challenges & opportunities
The primary challenges in the next decade or so will be:
a) For developed countries the main challenge, particularly
in North America and western Europe, will be to get government
support for a continuing viable mining business. While
respecting all the environmental and other legislation to
comply with, it is important that current operations are able
to continue. There will be a need for some countries that have
closed down particular mines to re-consider opening them to
b) Detailed exploration to extend reserves of known deposits
needs to be carried out at the present time so a properly
conducted mining operation can be planned, permissions sought
and environmental permissions gained. Systems to support the
geologist, mining engineers, and management teams must be
c) Sufficient training of geologists, mining engineers,
processing engineers, chemical engineers, chemists, and
research scientists must be encouraged. It would be good to see
a School/Department of Industrial Minerals established
in one of the major universities in the world, with support
from industry, to concentrate on the training of industrial
The opportunities in industrial minerals looking ahead
a) New product development. What is the future of
nano-materials? The flurry of papers at present on various
nanoclays for incorporation in nanocomposites is interesting
and potentially exciting, but there is a need now to move into
production and determine the true feasibility of some
products. In the oilfield drilling sector there are
many opportunities for new products involving a wide range of
minerals such as barytes, bentonites, other special clays and
b) The next ten years could well see increasing strife
between China and other countries within certain sectors. The
new papermills in China are state-of-the-art and have a
distinct cost advantage over other operations in the world.
This is being seen at the present time by closures of several
key papermills in Europe and the USA. Any cost advantage that
the Chinese have at present might well be eroded by import
taxes and trade restrictions.
c) As has been well documented by IM, exploration activity
and increases in capacity for magnesite based products
CCM, DBM and FM have been generated by the desire not to
have to rely on Chinese imports. However, with these plans
reaching fulfilment the price of MgO products from China has
fallen back to low levels (DBM in September 2008 at $650/t is
now being offered at $250-300/t but with no buyers as everybody
build up stocks in 2008). The message here is that prices will
increase again so companies should continue with their own
plans for developing their own resources outside of China.
d) It is predicted that North Korea will become an important
supplier of industrial minerals in the next 10-20 years. Even
given the current desperate situation in the country with power
shortages and famines (during the last ten years) there are
large deposits of many important industrial minerals such as
magnesite (second largest resource in the world after China),
talc (1st Grade), wollastonite, graphite, marble (for GCC),
perlite, and others.
This is the most difficult question as over the last 35
years working with industrial minerals I have visited
approximately 75 countries and continue to enjoy the travelling
and challenges of coping with strange languages and different
foods. The joy of working in the sector is the people one meets
from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds.
It is good to look back, as the first General Manager of ECC
do Brasil near São Paulo that people you first employed
are now in senior positions in their respective companies. Also
the owner of the land, Fumio Horii, that ECC leased an area for
20 years to mine and process kaolin for the local paper filler
market has invested in a luxury hotel and golf club and all his
sons are running a business (one the kaolin company, another a
limestone business with the younger son designing extensions to
In carrying out exploration work for marble and studying
kaolin and ball clay deposits in the Czech Republic, I used the
geological knowledge of Dr. Jiri Jiranek, at the time with the
Geological Survey of Czech Republic. Years later when I visited
Chile to make a study I was met by Jiri at the airport who,
because of his knowledge of Spanish and other skills, had
become the Czech Ambassador.
My first visit to Brazil was back in 1975 when I landed on a
flight from Venezuela at 0400 hrs in the morning in Manaus
(Amazonas) and promptly went to the nearest bar for a welcome
drink! I was very fortunate to work for a company such as ECC
International/Imerys that gave me the opportunity to travel so
widely and extensively.
In retirement I continue to visit new places, in
particular North Korea where I have been made very welcome,
particularly in the deposits where the generosity of the hosts
in sharing their meagre food rations has been humbling.
I continue to work in China on a number of industrial
minerals which is both fascinating and challenging as a
geologist in visiting new deposits and meeting new people. In
China, I am particularly grateful for the friendship and help
of Professor Wen Lu (Chengdu University), Larry Lai (Yie-Lie
Enterprises), and Rocky Wu (Rocky Mountains Development
I would like to congratulate Industrial Minerals on
its 500th Edition, and in particular Mike
ODriscoll who is a good friend. Heres to the next
John Harman, president, Martin Marietta Magnesia
Specialties LLC, USA
| John R. Harman joined Martin Marietta Magnesia
Specialties in 1977 and has held increasingly responsible
management positions including vice president and general
manager, Chemicals. In 2005, John was named president of
Magnesia Specialties which includes its Dolomitic Lime
Operation in Woodville, Ohio and its Magnesia Chemical
Operation in Manistee, Michigan.
For Martin Marietta Magnesia Specialties it was the decision
to add chemical magnesia production in Manistee, Michigan in
1969. As steelmaking practices improved and refractory
grade magnesia consumption on a per ton of steel basis
declined, the volume of magnesia for refractory applications
Couple this with the dramatic increase in magnesite imports
from China which led to the consolidation and ultimate
destruction of synthetic magnesia production in North America.
Only two producers of refractory grade MgO exist in North
America today, and the level of production from each is well
below historical levels.
Today, synthetic magnesia producers are being encouraged to
maintain supply of high purity magnesia as insurance against
uncertainties in the global refractory market
The other most significant impact that Ive seen is the
change in the regulatory environment in the USA.
Regulations continue to tighten in all environmental areas with
air and water leading the list. Magnesia is a key mineral in
chemical pollution control technologies and will continue to be
for many years to come. Magnesia delivers on a cost and
performance basis compared to other alkalis in the market place
Challenges & opportunities
The primary challenges have to be the burden place on
industry to meet stringent chemical registration requirements
such as REACH. Many minerals that are synthetically
produced are in a purer state than some that are found in
nature, yet they are required to meet the same regulatory
requirements of more hazardous chemicals.
As I look back over the past 30 years, the most memorable
accomplishments for our business have been related to
developing markets that had not used magnesia previously.
Examples of this are the use of magnesia as a pulp bleaching
chemical, providing a cost effective mineral hydrate in
magnesium hydroxide for flame retardancy, and developing the
most stable magnesium hydroxide that can be shipped thousands
of miles and while maintaining its performance and stability
Especially gratifying is the success we have experienced in
our pioneering efforts to move chemical grade magnesia
prominently into the 21st century as a safe,
effective and efficient alkali to solve environmental