The global talc industry in 2009

By
Published: Saturday, 22 August 2009

Sorted for plastics: as talc’s filler use in paper continues to decrease, Ian Wilson discovers how the mineral’s role in polymers and cars looks set to drive the future market

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 USA.

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 in China.

Table 1: Types of talc deposits and formation

Type of talc deposit Formation of deposit Selected locations
Magnesium Carbonate
(Represent 60-70% of world’s production and provide some of the purest and whitest talc) Transformation of dolomite and magnesite In the presence of silica.   Silica is provided by hydrothermal circulation Yellowstone, Montana, USA, China, North Korea, Brazil,  Respina, Spain
Serpentinite
(Represent 20% of world’s 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, Canada
Siliceous/sil co-aluminous rocks
(Represent about 10% of world’s 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 Trimouns, France
Source: Rio Tinto Minerals

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 utilisation

Property Function Main market utilisation
Platyness Softness/non-abrasive Cosmetics, paper, roofing
Printability Paper
Antisticking Rubber tyres,fertilisers, paper (pitch control), roofing
Barrier effect Paints, plastic films, animal feed, rubber hoses
Platyness & hydrophobicity Barrier effect Coated paper, roofing
Organophilicity Chemical demand Coated paper
Adsorbing Cosmetics, paper (pitch control), olive oil
Organophilicity & hydropobicity Softness/feel Coated paper
Hydrophobicity Printing runnability Coated paper
Anticaking Animal feed, food, fertilisers
Magnesium content Flux Ceramic tiles, sanitaryware, glazes, tableware
Magnesium & Silicon content Electro-insulating Steatites and cordierites
Chlorite content Low thermal expansion Refractories
Molecular structure Nucleating Semi-crystalline polymers
Non-polar Electro-insulating Wires and cables
Inertness Barrier effect Rubber (pharmaceutical stoppers)
Carrier Premixes, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics
Source: Rio Tinto Minerals

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, 2007

REGION/Country 2007
EUROPE  
Austria  153,409
Finland  535,862
France  420,000
Germany  ...
Greece  250
Italy  112,080
Macedonia, FYR  1,775
Norway  34,000
Portugal  12,367
Romania  1,513
Russia  150,000
Slovakia  ...
Spain  85,000
Sweden  7,000
United Kingdom  2,850
AFRICA  
Egypt  55,000
Morocco  900
South Africa  14,281
Sudan 2,620
Uganda 5,000
Zimbabwe  ...
NORTH AMERICA  
Canada  67,000
Guatemala  500
Mexico  32,140
USA  769,000
SOUTH AMERICA  
Argentina  13,800
Brazil 401,204
Chile  764
Colombia  15,000
Peru  23,096
Uruguay  848
ASIA  
Bhutan  62,014
China  2,500,000
India 816,290
Iran  70,000
Japan  25,000
Korea, Dem. P.R. of  20,000
Korea, Republic of  9,557
Nepal  9,043
Pakistan  27,400
Taiwan  ...
Thailand  3,508
OCEANIA  
Australia  151,000
WORLD TOTAL 6,611,071
Source: British Geological Survey;
US Geological Survey for US figures
and comment

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).

Figure 2: Global production of talc by country for 2008 (%)


Eleven countries accounted for 6.1m. tonnes of talc production in 2008

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 Tinto’s IM future hangs in the balance).

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

Location/mine/deposit Supplying plant Main market uses
NORTH AMERICA
Yellowstone, Montana Three Forks, Montana Pulp and paper - main use, others
  Sappington Montana Pulp and paper, rubber, polymers,  others
Argonaut, Vermont Ludlow, Vermont Coating applications, roofing, flooring
Penhorwood, Ontario Timmins, Ontario Polymers (main use), ceramics, others
Talc from China and USA Houston, Texas Pharmaceutical, food, polymer, personal care
Talc supply - various sources Mexico City Paper, paint, polymers, rubber, others
EUROPE    
Trimouns, France Luzenac, France All markets uses
Rabenwald, Austria Oberfeistritz, Austria Paper main use, paints, polymers, others
  Weisskirchen, Austria Polymers and coating
Kleinfeistritz, Austria Weisskirchen, Austria Polymers and coating
Imported talc - China Weisskirchen, Austria Polymers and coating
Rodoretto, Italy Mallanagio, Italy Polymers, coatings and paper
Other sources of talc Mallanagio, Italy Cosmetics and pharmaceuticals
Imported Talc Ghent, Belgium Technical Ceramics and other markets
Respina, Spain Bonar and La Vega Polymers and coating industries
Tres Amigos, Spain Mijas, Spain Paints, plastics and fertiliser
ASIA PACIFIC    
Three Springs, Australia Three Springs, Australia Supply for wide range of markets
Imported Talc Nihon Mistron, Suzuka, Japan Plastics, rubber, ceramics, paper
  Nihon Mistron, Tomakomai Paper
Source: Rio Tinto Minerals


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

Mondo Minerals

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. HgCapital’s 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 September 2009.

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.

IMI Fabi

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 valley.

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 IM’s 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.

Golcha Group

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

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. Jai’s processing plants are in Udaipur ( IM August ’08, p.28: A minerals passage to India).

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 reported.

American Talc Co.

American Talc Co. is North America’s 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 Group’s 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

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 utilisation.

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 2008

Province Main areas Output tpa Output %
Liaoning Haicheng, Dashiqiao, Others 90000000% 45
Guangxi Longsheng, Shanglin, Huanjiang 55000000% 28
Shandong Pingdu, Laizhou, Qixia 35000000% 17
Jiangxi Guangfeng 100,000 5
Others Sichuan, Hubei, Shaanxi, Henan 10000000% 5
Total 2,000,000 100%
Source: Jia Xiu Zhuang, personal communication July 2009
 
Production


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. tonnes.

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 market.

Figure 6: Exports of talc lump and average price, 1996-2008


Source: China Customs

Figure 7: Exports of talc powder and average price, 1996-2008


Source: China Customs

Figure 8: Exports of talc lump and powder and average price, 1996-2008


Source: China Customs

Talc exports

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%.

Elsewhere

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 fibres.

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 & talc).

Markets

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, 2008



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 world’s biggest auto market for the first half of 2009 after June’s sales increased 36.5% from a year earlier.

Vehicle sales on the Chinese mainland in June rose to 1.14m., the second-highest month to date after April’s 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.

China’s 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 China’s 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 increasing demand.

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 (Jia Xiuzhuang).

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 $698/tonne.

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.

Product developments

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 impermeability.

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.

Health aspects

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.

Main references

British Geological Survey. World Commodities Markets 2008.

Industrial Minerals. Numerous other articles and information.

Jia Xiu Zhuang, 2008. Focus on the talc industry in China. No.1. China Non-metallic Minerals Industry Herald.

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.

O’Driscoll, 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