In a year when its parent company
has been hit hard seeing its profits drop 34%, Amcol Minerals
Europe (AME) has endured what has been an unsteady time for
overall bentonite demand.
AMEs relative success has
been driven in the main by the progress of its most recent
acquisition, a bentonite mine and processing operation in
Turkey Amcol Minerals Madencilik (AMM, formerly Bensan),
according to commercial director, Alan Newbold.
Demand wise we didnt
really suffer over the last year, Newbold said in an
interview with IM, right across the
board demand was solid.
Europes detergent markets
were described as strong while the bleaching earths
sales performed in a similar manner. These two markets, for
which AME supplies intermediate products, remained solid owing
to its strong ties to the individual consumer.
Amcols Turkish operation has become a significant
source of bentonite for the company. Courtesy AME
Demand for our products rose slightly last year,
explained AMEs managing director Tony OReilly,
people are still buying detergents and edible oils, the
latter using bleaching earths. Demand for both remained
But it has been Amcols
Turkish operation its first stronghold in the Mediterranean
region Ð where the company has seen most benefit supplying
foundry, bleaching earth, animal feed and drilling mud
The new 150,000 tpa subsidiary
Amcol Minerals Madencilik (AMM), based in Istanbul, is one of
the countrys leading bentonite producers with estimated
reserves of 15m. tonnes from its mines in the Enez Edirne
region of Turkey. In 2009, AMM was responsible for nearly half
of Turkeys bentonite exports.
OReilly said: The
principal reasons for expanding into Turkey was to increase our
geographic spread. We felt the time was right to re-establish
ourselves in regions where key markets are.
We certainly see a very
attractive foundry and metal casting market both domestically
in Turkey and close by, he added.
Much of the bentonite that is sold
is dried and crushed, or milled and bagged, it is relatively
unprocessed compared with products from its plant in Winsford,
UK where much of the value is added.
A pilot plant at Winsford, UK. Courtesy AME
The Winsford plant in Cheshire, UK
is central to AMEs higher value business. The company
imports raw materials from its own sites and external suppliers
globally to serve the European market. Production ranges from
bentonite detergent grades to magnesium aluminium silicate
products from paints and polishes to bleaching clays for the
purification of oil and as a binder.
The plant, which has a capacity of
200,000 tpa, was described as a conglomerate of smaller
operations. Essentially, Winsford represents a research and
development platform for mineral processing techniques that are
then exported to Amcols operations around the world.
OReilly said: Out of
Winsford we have exported knowledge and technology to China and
The value of products range from a
few hundred pounds a tonne, to several thousands of
pounds a tonne and are exported globally to 24 countries
mainly in Western Europe, Latin America, and Asia.
In 2005 AME won the prestigious
Queens Award for innovation and exports owing to its
focus on higher value products at Winsford.
The plant also offers contract
processing to industrial mineral miners. Winsford has a 80,000
tpa capacity plant offering a range of scales from 5 kg lab
work to a full capacity plant.
The Winsford minerals processing site where much
of the companys technology is developed. Courtesy
Diversifying into chromite
The parent of AME, USA-based Amcol
International Corp., decided to benefit from their relationship
with foundry customers which represents 41% of total
bentonite sales by acquiring a controlling stake in a
South African chromite mine.
AMEs role in the j-v is as a
logistics hub in Winsford and Turkey to sell products to the UK
and Mediterranean markets, respectively.
Newbold said: Foundry is by
far Amcols most important business... the company got
into chromite to make chromite sand rather than it being a
by-product of ferro-chrome production.
Chromite sand acts as a refractory
facing sand to improve the cast quality of metal castings.
Without the sand lining many castings for steel, power
generation, and ship building industries would become very
difficult to produce.
Amcol controls the majority stake
(53%) of Chrome Corp. which owns 74% of the Ruighoek chromite
mine, located approximately two hours north-west from
Johannesburg, South Africa.
The deal gives the group full
operating control of the mine and the option to buy the
remaining 47% of Chrome Corp. in the next two years for $12.4m.
It intends to increase production capability at the site, which
started up in 2008, to 100,000 tpa.
The future for
In a little under a decade, Amcol
has risen from relative obscurity to gaining a strong foothold
in Europe. The acquisition of the Winsford operation in 2002
and of its Turkish mine and plant in 2007 has given the company
a solid base to grow from and, significantly for its US parent,
has diversified away from supplying metals focused
Now, having negotiated a tough year
which has seen many casualties, AME is hoping for solid growth
to lay the foundation for possible future acquisitions.
OReilly said: I would want to see AME maintain
growth that equals that of Amcol the goal is to be able to
maintain a 20% compound annual growth rate.
Profile: Amcol International Corp.
Company: Amcol Minerals Europe
Owner/Division: Amcol International Corp./
Primary business: bentonite mining and
Secondary business: Contract processing
Amcols mines: Turkey (Amcol Minerals
Madencilik - AMM, 150,000 tpa capacity), Russia (Bentonit
Group, 300,000 tpa, 25% stake), USA (2.5m. tpa, parent
Worldwide production capacity: 2.95m.