Talc production in 2008 is estimated at 6.1m. tonnes with 16
companies accounting for 74%. The sale of Rio Tinto
Minerals talc business, the largest producer with a 23%
of the world talc market, has been delayed until market
conditions recover. The second largest producer, Mondo Minerals
with 12%, was acquired from Omya AG in 2007 by HgCapital.
A significant recent change is that Chinese talc production
will be controlled by a group of eight companies split between
Liaoning, Shandong and Guangxi provinces, which account for 20%
of output. India continues to develop and is now the second
largest producing country behind China having overtaken the
A decline in use of talc as a paper filler has been more
than offset by good growth of the use of talc in polymers,
especially for automobile parts. New sources of talc are now
being offered from North Korea and Pakistan. In the first
quarter of 2009, output and sales of many talc operations
decreased, with Liaoning province production being 143,000
tonnes; a decrease of 34% compared with Q4 2008.
Talc geology & origin
Rio Tinto Minerals classifies talc deposits into four types
based on the rocks they are formed from: magnesium carbonate;
serpentinite; siliceous or silico-aluminous rocks; and
magnesium sedimentary deposits.
A summary of three of the types with respect to formation
and some locations is shown in Table 1. Magnesium sedimentary
deposits are included for completion but generally are impure,
thus not much is presently mined in any significant amounts,
though potential resources are large particularly
Table 1: Types of talc deposits and formation
Source: Rio Tinto Minerals
|Type of talc deposit
||Formation of deposit
|(Represent 60-70% of worlds production and
provide some of the purest and whitest talc)
||Transformation of dolomite and magnesite In the
presence of silica. Silica is provided by
||Yellowstone, Montana, USA, China, North Korea,
Brazil, Respina, Spain
|(Represent 20% of worlds production)
||Commonly called soapstone - is generally grey and
never pure. Often upgraded by flotation to increase talc
content and whiteness
||Finland, Egypt, Vermont, USA, Quebec, Ontario,
|Siliceous/sil co-aluminous rocks
|(Represent about 10% of worlds production)
||Transformation of quartzite (provides silica) with
silico-aluminous rocks such as schist and gneiss,
chlorite can form as well as talc associated with
magnesium carbonate type
Properties and use
The major properties of talc, their function and main uses
are shown in Table 2. Talc is a crystalline hydrated magnesium
silicate mineral with chemical formula,
Mg3Si4O10(OH), with a
theoretical chemical composition of 63.37% SiO2,
31.88% MgO and 4.75% H2O.
Table 2: Talc properties, function and market
Source: Rio Tinto Minerals
||Main market utilisation
||Cosmetics, paper, roofing
||Rubber tyres,fertilisers, paper (pitch control),
||Paints, plastic films, animal feed, rubber hoses
|Platyness & hydrophobicity
||Coated paper, roofing
||Cosmetics, paper (pitch control), olive oil
|Organophilicity & hydropobicity
||Animal feed, food, fertilisers
||Ceramic tiles, sanitaryware, glazes, tableware
|Magnesium & Silicon content
||Steatites and cordierites
||Low thermal expansion
||Wires and cables
||Rubber (pharmaceutical stoppers)
||Premixes, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics
Global production of talc is estimated from two main sources
the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the British
Geological Survey (BGS). BGS statistics from 2003 to 2007 are
shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Talc production by country and region,
Source: British Geological Survey;
|Korea, Dem. P.R. of
|Korea, Republic of
US Geological Survey for US figures
Figures from the USGS for 2008 show production in USA was
645,000 tonnes, a decrease of 16% from 2007 with talc sales
decreasing by 14% to 618,000 tonnes. In China, the production
of talc in 2008 has been estimated at 2m. tonnes. Previous
figures by BGS and official government figures showed 2.5m.
tonnes for 2007.
Taking into account these new figures the global production
of talc for 2008 is estimated as 6.1m. tonnes. A regional split
of the 6.1m. tonnes is shown in Figure 1 and indicates that 50%
of production is from Asia.
Figure 1: Regional talc production capacity of 6.1m.
tonnes in 2008 (%)
Sources: BGS, USGS, China; compiled by Ian Wilson
Eleven countries account for 90% of global production with
China the leader at 33%, followed by India with 13% and USA
with 11%; just three countries therefore account for 57%
Figure 2: Global production of talc by country for 2008
Eleven countries accounted for 6.1m. tonnes of talc production
Leading talc producers
Sixteen companies with production >100,000 tpa accounted
for 64% of the 6.1m. tonnes of talc produced in 2008 (Figure
3), with others producing <100,000 tpa accounting for 26%.
Rio Tinto Minerals is the largest single producing company
(23%), and Mondo Minerals is second with 12%. Eight companies
from China account for 20%, three from India for 10%, two from
USA for 5% and IMI Fabi from Italy for 2%.
Figure 3: Leading producing companies in 2008 based on
6.1m. tonnes (%)
Source: Industry sources compiled by Ian Wilson
Rio Tinto Minerals
Rio Tinto Minerals (RTM) was formed in 2006 through the
consolidation of the borates and talc businesses and Dampier
Salt. In late 2007 RTM announced that the borates and talc
business units would be put up for sale (I
M December 07, p.6: Rio Tintos IM future hangs in
But in mid-2009 RTM announced that the borates business
would not be sold (
IM 22 May 2009: Rio Tinto cancels borates sale).
The talc business has a number of talc deposits which supply
various beneficiation plants in Asia Pacific, Europe and North
America. In some cases the plants are supplied by lump talc
imported from China and elsewhere. The operations of RTM are
summarised in Table 4.
Table 4: RTM global talc operations
Source: Rio Tinto Minerals
||Main market uses
||Three Forks, Montana
||Pulp and paper - main use, others
||Pulp and paper, rubber, polymers, others
||Coating applications, roofing, flooring
||Polymers (main use), ceramics, others
|Talc from China and USA
||Pharmaceutical, food, polymer, personal care
|Talc supply - various sources
||Paper, paint, polymers, rubber, others
||All markets uses
||Paper main use, paints, polymers, others
||Polymers and coating
||Polymers and coating
|Imported talc - China
||Polymers and coating
||Polymers, coatings and paper
|Other sources of talc
||Cosmetics and pharmaceuticals
||Technical Ceramics and other markets
||Bonar and La Vega
||Polymers and coating industries
|Tres Amigos, Spain
||Paints, plastics and fertiliser
|Three Springs, Australia
||Three Springs, Australia
||Supply for wide range of markets
||Nihon Mistron, Suzuka, Japan
||Plastics, rubber, ceramics, paper
||Nihon Mistron, Tomakomai
The talc operations of RTM cover a wide range of mineralogy
with pure talc from Luzenac Val Chisone (Italy), Luzenac
America (Yellowstone, USA) and Luzenac (Spain). Talc de Luzenac
in Trimouns, France, is chloritic, while deposits in Vermont,
Canada and those in Austria have some carbonate and other
minerals. A summary of the variability in mineralogy of some of
the deposits is shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4: Mineralogy of some RTM talc deposits
Source: Rio Tinto Minerals
Figure 5: Chinese production in 2008
Source: Jia Xiu Zhuang, personal communication July 2009
In September 2007 HgCapital Trust Plc, a European investment
group, purchased Mondo Minerals Oy (a subsidiary of Omya AG).
Mondo Minerals was formed through a merger of Dutch, Finnish,
and Norwegian talc producers in 1998. Mondo mines talc from its
own quarries in Finland and processes at its plants in Sotkamo,
Vuonos and Kaavi.
The company also has a processing plant in Amsterdam and a
slurry makedown plant at Katwijk in the Netherlands. It is the
second ranked world talc producer with a total mill capacity of
800,000 tpa. Mondo Minerals sells talc in Europe for adhesive,
paper, plastics, rubber, sealants, and various other
industries. HgCapitals plans, at the time of acquisition,
were to expand in new market areas, particularly Asia.
Mondo Minerals announced in April 2009 that an agreement had
been signed with major Chinese producer Beihai Group to jointly
produce talc from Haicheng, Liaoning province; becoming the
first foreign owned talc company to control reserves in China
(IM 14 April 2009: Mondo Minerals in China talc j-v).
It is anticipated that the Beihai j-v will be operational by
In March 2009, Mondo also announced that it had agreed to
buy a minimum of 60,000 tpa crude talc for ten years from
Rozmin sro of Slovakia, subsidiary of EuroGas GmbH, in turn a
subsidiary of Ukrainian oil and gas company EuroGas Inc.
(IM April 09, p.10: Mondo secures Slovac talc supply
deal). Talc will be supplied from the Gemerska Poloma
magnesite-talc deposit in eastern Slovakia.
Industria Mineraria Italiana Fabi SpA (IMI Fabi), part of
the Fabi Corp., was founded over 50 years ago in northern
Italy. IMI Fabi initially mined grey talc from its three
underground talc mines located in Valmalenco, north of Sondrio.
This mining operation with the processing plant at Torre St.
Maria, north of Sondrio, supplied grey talc products to Italy
and eventually to Europe.
In the early 1990s as demand grew for high brightness talc
products which could not be supplied from Italy, IMI Fabi began
to import lump talc from China and Australia (Mt. Seabrook,
high purity white talc) to meet the growing demand in
application areas such as plastics for the automotive industry.
This ore is processed at the Postalesio plant in the Valtellina
In the late 90s, IMI Fabi partnered with USA-based
Zemex Corp. and eventually purchased the two talc manufacturing
plants in Benwood, West Virginia, and Diana, New York state. In
Asia, IMI Fabi had long purchased Chinese ore for export to its
Italian plant and then to its is new plants in the US.
To gain a stable and secure source, in addition to its
supplies from Australia, IMI Fabi established a partnership
with Aihai Mining/Aihai Talc, which controls reserves of high
quality talc in Haicheng, Liaoning province, China. A new plant
is now fully operational at Aihai Talc and was visited during
IMs 6th Chinese Industrial Minerals
conference in 2007.
Most mining is underground and extensive hand-sorting is
carried out and supplied to the new IMI Fabi plant. In 2009,
IMI Fabi secured an important talc resource through the
acquisition of Sa Matta and Su Venosu mines and the related
Monte Nieddu plant on the island of Sardinia. IMI Fabi states
that delamination (giving high aspect ratio) is the key to
success for high quality talc products and sophisticated
micronisation equipment to produce fine particle size talc.
Main grades offered by IMI Fabi are HTP grades (high aspect
ratio) and used mainly in plastics: HTPultra, mainly used in
plastics; HM, characterised by high brightness, high aspect
ratio and used in automotive mouldings and trim and in paints,
coatings and putties; BT grade, mainly for the US market,
characterised by high purity and medium brightness.
This is the leading producer in India with 300,000 tpa.
Golcha has high pure talc deposits called Dausa and Bhilwara,
located in Rajasthan, totalling 25m. tonnes of high quality
talc reserves. The company exports regularly to western Europe,
especially Germany, Africa, the Gulf region and to Asia.
Golcha plans to expand by a further 100,000 tpa in 2009. In
March this year the company opened a 36,000 tpa processing
facility in Thailand, through new subsidiary M/S
Golcha-Chemintac Co. Ltd Thailand (
IM 30 March 2009: Golcha opens Thai talc facility).
The 36,000 tpa plant will be fully automated and process talc
sourced from the Dausa and Bhilwara mines in Rajasthan.
Golcha Associated Group
Golcha Associated has three talc mines in Bhungapar, Devpura
and Devla, south Rajasthan, India, with processing facilities
near Udaipur operated by partners, Associated Soapstone
Distributing Co. Pvt Ltd and Dharidhan Pvt Ltd. Capacity is
said to be 160,000 tpa.
Jai Group is based in Rajasthan and intends to increase its
capacity from 100,000 to 200,000 tpa over the next three years.
Jai Group has three mines at Parsola, Dhariawad, about 135km
from Udaipur. The largest mine, Bharkundi 1, has production of
~65,000 tpa and reserves of ~9m. tonnes. Bharkundi 2 has a
production of 15,000 tpa and reserves of 3m. tonnes.
The third mine is Harwar Block with production of 10,000
tpa. All deposits are within dolomitic rocks and are generally
>98% talc. Other talc is mined from Ghonghra mine at
Dungarpar, 90km from Udaipur (host rock magnesite) and Jhooti
mine from the same area. Jais processing plants are in
IM August 08, p.28: A minerals passage to
Specialty Minerals Inc
Specialty Minerals Inc. (SMI), part of Minerals Technologies
Inc., has been producing finely ground talc at its Barretts
operation in Montana since 1964, and coarser grades for paint
and paper since the early 1950s.
SMI also processes purchased talc, mainly from China at its
plants at Mt. Vernon, Indiana, and Wellsville, Ohio, purchased
from Polar Minerals in 2002. However these plants were put up
for sale due to uncertainty of supply of imported lump talc
from China and its high price; no divestiture has been
American Talc Co.
American Talc Co. is North Americas largest supplier
of ceramic talc and operates a processing plant and three mines
near Van Horn, Texas. Capacity is said to be 180,000 tpa. Talc
is mined from the Allamore Formation and occurs in a host
marble and phyllite.
The very dark grey or blackish ore is typically 80-85% talc,
10-12% carbonates, 2-4% quartz. American Talc became the sole
producer in Texas with the acquisition of the talc mill and
customer base of Milwite Inc. in 2007, following the purchase
of Zemex Minerals Groups talc assets in 2006. These
acquisitions enabled American Talc to diversify its markets
beyond ceramics into markets such as agriculture, paint,
plastics, putties and roofing.
China is the largest producer of talc in the world at 2m.
tonnes (33% of total) and the largest exporter of talc at
690,000 tonnes in 2008 (35% of production). In 2005, the
Chinese authorities initiated a policy whereby the larger
producers were encouraged to purchase and merge the small and
medium-sized ones and maximise talc resources and
This followed a detailed study by the Talc Association of
China. The eight large-sized companies chosen to participate in
this programme were Aihai Talc, Behai Group and Shuiquan Talc
Mining in Liaoning province; Pingdu Talc and Laizhou Talc
Industry Group in Shandong province; and Guiguang Talc,
Longguang Talc and Huamei Talc Co. in Guangxi Province. In the
future it is anticipated that over 80% white talc raw material
will come from these companies and account for over 95% of the
total export volume.
Table 5: Main Chinese talc production areas in
Source: Jia Xiu Zhuang, personal communication July 2009
||Haicheng, Dashiqiao, Others
||Longsheng, Shanglin, Huanjiang
||Pingdu, Laizhou, Qixia
||Sichuan, Hubei, Shaanxi, Henan
A split by province of talc output at 2m. tonnes for 2008 is
shown in Table 5.
A summary of the 2m. tonnes production in 2008 for the eight
major companies, other areas within Liaoning and Shandong and
other provinces, is shown in Figure 5.
For the eight major producers, three of these are in
Liaoning province with Aihai Talc, Beihai and Shuiquan Talc. In
Guangxi the largest producer of the three major companies is
Guiguang Talc, with an output of 200,000 tpa. The deposit of
the company is located in Longsheng County. The lump talc is
mined from Jizhua quarry in Longsheng County. This mine is one
of the largest in China with reported reserves in excess of 5m.
Shandong has two major talc producers Pingdu Talc Co.
and Laizhou with smaller mines and operations in Qixia
area. In recent years Pingdu has developed various new products
for pharmaceutical, cosmetic, plastic and paint applications.
Good sales for these new products in the domestic market have
offset shrinking sales in the traditional paper filler
Figure 6: Exports of talc lump and average price,
Source: China Customs
Figure 7: Exports of talc powder and average price,
Source: China Customs
Figure 8: Exports of talc lump and powder and average
Source: China Customs
Exports of talc lump and powder from 1996 to 2006 are shown
in Figures 6-8. These statistics probably do not represent
total exports of talc as it is believed that some chlorite
(closely associated with talc) is being exported. Information
from China is that total exports of talc (plus chlorite) could
well total 900,000 to 1m. tpa.
Overall, for both lump and powder exports combined the
average price of $142/tonne in 2007 rose in 2008 to $191/tonne;
an increase of almost 35%. Total revenue rose from $93.5m. to
$132.5m.; an increase of almost 42%.
North Korea: High quality white talc is
being offered to various customers in Europe and elsewhere by
Steinbock Minerals Ltd. Detailed analysis has been carried out
and lump product is gaining acceptance in the market place.
Output is around 20,000 tpa.
Pakistan: There has been a flurry of
activity over the last year with talc being offered from
Pakistan. There are many deposits and perhaps the best quality
material is in the Free Tribal Area adjacent to Afghanistan.
Companies such as HZM are offering talc lump.
Afghanistan: Across the border from
Pakistan are high quality talc deposits. The Russians carried
out detailed exploration for magnesite and talc in Afghanistan
between 1972-79. BGS reports that the Ghunday talc deposit in
Nangarhar province is high-grade with the talc occurring in
lenses, pods and veins. It is currently worked by artisanal and
small-scale miners. In Achin, Konar District, an estimated
resource of 1.3m. tonnes talc is present, closely associated
with 31m. tonnes of magnesite.
Canada: Through their joint-venture, Globex
Engineering Enterprises Inc. and Drinkard Metalox Inc. continue
to evaluate their Deloro magnesite and talc deposit at Timmins,
Ontario. Recent test work by Bodycote Testing Group (EXOVA) has
certified that samples of crushed rock and talc concentrate
submitted for mineralogical characterisation and confirmation
by Transmission Electron Microscopy detected no asbestos
This means the talc, in addition to being suitable for the
plastics industry, most likely will meet the specification of
the cosmetics industry (
IM 24 July 2009: Globex confirms magnesite &
The global consumption of talc (Figure 9) is still
mainly for paper but this is decreasing. While talc is still
useful being used as pitch control in the paper making process,
its use as a paper filler is decreasing.
The biggest growth sector is polymers where not only are the
volumes increasing but sales values of products are generally
higher than for paper. This sector is being mainly driven by
increasing use of talc in automobiles. Others include high
quality products for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and lower value
products for agriculture.
Figure 9: Global consumption of talc by market use
Figure 10: End uses for talc produced in USA,
In the US market the major use for talc is ceramics with paper
and paint following (Figure 10). Apparent consumption
of talc in the USA for 2008 (615,000 tonnes) decreased by 24%
from 2007 levels. Chinese talc continued to be imported but at
lower levels for 2008 than in 2007. R.T. Vanderbilt finally
ceased its operations at the end of 2008 (IM 29 January 2009:
RTV winds down talc).
The Chinese economy is recovering well from late 2008 and
GDP figures for June 2009 were reported as 7.9% (government
target was 8%). As an example of this recovery China surpassed
the USA as the worlds biggest auto market for the first
half of 2009 after Junes sales increased 36.5% from a
Vehicle sales on the Chinese mainland in June rose to
1.14m., the second-highest month to date after Aprils
1.15m. units, according to the China Association of Automobile
Manufacturers. Passenger car sales hit a monthly record of
872,900 units. Total sales for the first half of 2009 rose to
6.1m., up 17.7% from 2008, and outpaced the USA, where
passenger car sales in the same period plunged to 4.8m.
Chinas auto sales weakened in late 2008 but rebounded
after Beijing launched a stimulus package with sales tax cuts,
subsidies to trade in older cars and other incentives. Analysts
expect Chinas sales this year to top 10m. vehicles while
another group says the total could exceed 11m. Commercial
vehicles such as trucks and busses are a larger share of sales
in China than in the USA or Japan.
In 2008, Chinese sales included 6.8m. passenger cars and
2.6m. commercial vehicles. General Motors Corp. said its
Chinese sales in the first half of 2009 increased 38% from a
year earlier, and Ford reported sales were up 14%. Volkswagen,
Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. all intend to increase
their production capacity in the second half of 2009 to meet
All of this is good news for talc producers in China and
many new products are being developed by local companies, with
Aihai Talc already in a commercial arrangement with IMI Fabi,
and Beihai Group starting a j-v with Mondo Minerals. It is
estimated that on average 50kg of plastic products are used in
a Chinese passenger car compared with 60kg in Germany and Japan
The last official figures on consumption of talc in China
were from the Talc Association for 2006 (Dai Xiuban 2007) where
1.6m. was split between paper (56%), paint (19%), plastics
(9%), ceramics (6%) and others (10%).
Clearly less talc is now used as a paper filler (mainly
ground calcium carbonate and precipitated calcium carbonate in
recent modern paper mills) so the percentages of talc used
plastics will have increased. In 2008, 21,215 tonnes of high
quality talc powder was imported at an average price of
In China, the first quarter of 2009 figures for talc output
from Liaoning province were 143,000 tonnes, a decrease of 34%
compared to first quarter in 2008. Sales income was over 40%
down with a sharp decrease of exports by 42.9%. However,
despite a drop in output and sales income, sale prices
increased; especially for the powder grades.
The second quarter of 2009 is expected to see recovery,
albeit at a lower rate of growth than in early 2008. With
exports down many of the export licenses quotas have not have
been used and there is uncertainty what will happen in the
second half of the year.
RTM has developed a proprietary delamination process which
significantly increases aspect ratio, often five times higher
than a standard type. One such new product is Mistron HAR talc
where the key property of high performance tyre inner liners is
Good impermeablity, particularly to oxygen and water vapour,
also prevents pressure build up in the carcass, which can cause
oxidative destruction of the steel ply and breaker cords.
Cordierite ceramic honeycomb structures are used as an
exhaust gas purifying catalyst carrier, a filter or a heat
exchanger for automobiles. It has been shown that it is
important to use talc, kaolin and aluminium oxide in the
cordierite raw materials. For talc the important properties are
surface area, platiness and macro-crystallinity.
Calcium is critical to the coefficient of thermal expansion
so values should be low (<0.20% CaO). A honeycomb compact is
formed by adding an organic binder and a plasticiser to the
cordierite material batch, mixing, kneading and extruding. A
cordierite honeycomb structure is obtained by drying the
honeycomb compact and firing to 1,350 to 1,440°C.
The talc is key to the process as the cordierite raw
material must have a high BET specific surface area giving
lubricity at time of extrusion and shape stability with respect
to deformation. The thin wall honeycomb structure can be
40-110µ wall thickness.
Tomaino (2009) reports that the American Conference of
Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) board of
directors voted to withdraw the proposed 2008 Notice of
Intended Change value for talc and retain the currently adopted
value for 2009.
The current threshold limit value/time-weighted average
(TLV/TWA) for talc containing no asbestos is 2 mg/m3
with an A4 carcinogenicity classification (substances that are
not classified as carcinogenic). Talc has been placed on the
under study list for 2009. More recently the International
Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) held a new round of
discussions for its Volume 100 Monograph.
Asbestos, crystalline silica and talc were discussed and the
meeting was attended by industry observers who took part in
discussions. Once the conclusions are ready a briefing appears
in the Lancet Oncology with a complete monograph taking one to
three years to appear.
Acknowledgements: The writer acknowledges unpublished
information supplied by Dr Jia Xiu Zhuang of Haichen MinChem
Co. Ltd, Dalian, and Professor Wen Lu of Chengdu University,
Sichuan province, for translation of various Chinese articles
and other information. Thanks to Linda Hetherington of BGS.
British Geological Survey. World Commodities Markets
Numerous other articles and information.
Jia Xiu Zhuang, 2008. Focus on the talc industry in
China. No.1. China Non-metallic Minerals Industry
McCarthy, Edward. F, GENCO, Noel and READE, Ernest H, Jnr.
2005. TALC. Chapter on Talc in 7th Edition, Industrial Minerals
& Rocks, Commodities, Markets and Uses, SME.
Moores, Simon. A minerals passage to India. Industrial
Minerals, August 2008.
Mike. World Review Talking Talc. Industrial
Minerals, July 2007.
Tomaino, G.P. Talc and Pyrophyllite Review for
2008. SME, Mining Engineering, June 2009.
Virta, Bob. 2009. U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral
Commodity Summaries, Talc and Pyrophyllite, January 2009,
and previous Year Books and summaries.
Contributor: Ian Wilson, industrial
minerals consultant, UK