Crystallising Turkish minerals potential

By Jessica Roberts
Published: Monday, 26 April 2010

An updated mining law and a five-year strategic plan aim to attract foreign investment for Turkey’s rich resources

Nearly 60 different minerals are produced in Turkey and the country is ranked in many markets as one of the principal suppliers of raw materials (see panel). According to the Mineral Research and Exploration General Directorate of Turkey (MTA), Turkey is tenth in the world in terms of the variety of mineral resources found in the country.

In June 2004 the Turkish government amended the country’s mining law. Essentially the new law seeks to create a more investment-friendly environment for foreign firms, principally by shortening and easing the permitting process, reducing the fees to be paid by licence holders, and removing the limitation of mining activities on certain types of lands. The amendment, long overdue, is hoped to make Turkey’s mineral resources more attractive to investors.

However, regarding underground resources, according to Turkish law these are not considered to be part of the land where they are located; instead, these resources are subject to the ownership and disposition of the state. The state delegates its right to explore mineral resources and operate mines by issuing licences to individuals or companies for specific periods of time subject to payment of royalties.

I. Sonmez

Since mid 2004 the exploration licence period has been extended from 30 months to three years and the ‘pre-operation licence’ provided by the old law was removed. Upon obtaining a mining permit companies now have one year, rather than six months, to begin mining activities. However, failure to start operations within this period is now subject to a penalty of 10% royalty on the annual production amount declared in the project. The old law demanded a termination of the licence.

Should mining activities be conducted on state-owned land, the licence-holder is obliged to pay an additional 30% royalty but is not required to pay for leasing state-owned land for mining activities.

One big incentive for investors is an amendment that waives 50% of the royalty if a company chooses to process any extracted ores in Turkey, and thus provide additional value to the Turkish economy.

This is similar to the policies of countries such as South Africa, where the export of chromite ore has been discouraged in favour of exporting value-added products such as ferrochrome.

Unsurprisingly, the new law also ensured that Turkey’s boron mineral resources would be preserved for the country. All boron minerals are now subject to Law No. 2840, which stipulates that the exploration and operation of boron salts may only be carried out by the state.

Known resources of Turkey’s industrial minerals

Click on the map to view an enlarged PDF version

Boron minerals

Boron minerals are synonymous with Turkey. The country has the largest and, some would argue, the most economical deposits of boron in the world accounting for 72% of world total (around 3.05bn. tonnes) with an average B2O3 content ranging 24-35%.

Boron mining has occurred in ten countries and at only 13 mining operations in the world; four of these are in Turkey. The mineral’s importance to the country is such that in 1935 the Turkish government established ETI Mine Enterprises, a government-run mining company which now oversees all mining, production and marketing of Turkey’s boron minerals.

Run-of-mine production of these minerals located at Eskişehir-Seyitgazi-Kõrka (borax), KŸtahya-Emet (colemanite), Balõkesir-Bigadi (colemanite and ulexite) and Bursa-Kestelek (colemanite) amounted to 4.4m. tonnes in 2008. This provided 1.5m. tonnes of boron chemicals and concentrate, primarily sold into the glass, ceramics, detergents, and fertiliser markets.

Ceramic minerals

Turkey has a vibrant ceramics industry and the country is an important source of many of the minerals used in ceramics production. Figures from the MTA indicate Turkey has reserves of 420bn. tonnes of ceramic and refractory clays, including kaolin, with an Al2O3 content of 15-37%; 372bn. tonnes of feldspar; 2.4bn. tonnes of quartzite; and 1.9bn. tonnes of silica sand with SiO2 content of 90% and over.

“The country has an important role in ceramic and glass markets in the world,” Dr Bahadõr Sahin, coordinator of Mineral Research and Exploration department of MTA, told IM. “Ceramic and glass raw material mining has been improving in parallel to this trend.”

In 2007 Turkey produced 6.5m. tonnes of feldspar; exporting 4.45m. tonnes of this (worth around $147m.). It also imported around $3m. worth of high quality potassium feldspar suitable for glaze material.

In 2008, 131,000 tonnes of kaolin and kaolin-bearing clays were exported while approximately 402,000 tonnes of high quality clays were imported.

Export figures for ceramic minerals are expected to be lower for the 2009 period, as the industry was severely affected by an abrupt downturn in construction projects Ð courtesy of the global financial crisis.

“The decline in the construction market, and especially housing, mostly impacted the ceramic market. Decrease of per capita incomes, high unemployment, increasing loan rates, and shortage of money were drivers,” Zeynep Bodur Okyay, president of Kale Group and the Turkish Ceramic Federation, told IM.

Bodur believes the Turkish ceramics sector lost 20-25% of its market as a result of the recession pushing the market back to levels seen three years ago. However Turkey’s plight was not as drastic as that of other countries in the European ceramics market which Bodur believes may have decreased output by as much as 40% in the past two years.

“The ceramics industry in Europe fell down,” Bodur explained. “Spain was a leading ceramics country involved in this fall. Sales from Italy decreased a lot. Turkey was affected by the situation since the European countries were target markets of our industry.”

Turkey is the main supplier of borates and feldspar to ceramic manufacturers in Italy and Spain, Bodur revealed, in addition to exporting kaolin to North Africa and Syria.

Despite setbacks across global ceramics markets, there is a positive outlook for Turkey’s future in this sector. Bodur told IM: “Turkey will follow new trends and technologies with the strong brand names, services and quality of her industry.”

Sampling the 3cm blodite mineral crust on Lake
Ishakli. I. Sonmez

Other minerals: trona

Turkey is home to several important trona deposits, particularly in Ankara-Beypazarõ and Kazan. The Beypazarõ deposit, discovered by MTA in 1979, is claimed to be the second largest reserve in the world. It represents a reserve of 233m. tonnes with a trona content of 56% and over.

Last year Beypazarõ was brought into production by a joint-venture between Eti Soda and Ciner Group. The source made an immediate impact on the market, by supplying low cost material with an instantaneous capacity of 1m. tpa dense soda ash and 100,000 tpa of technical grade sodium bicarbonate.

Not content with this ambitious supply plan, Eti Soda told IM it is also aiming to produce additional grades of sodium bicarbonate for the feed and food markets within “a few months”. It will be interesting to see the impact Eti Soda has on world soda ash markets.


Turkey holds around 106m. tonnes of magnesite reserves with an MgO grade of 41-48%. These reserves are mainly found in Eskişehir, Kutahya, Konya and Erzincan.

One of the country’s main magnesite producers is Kumaş Kutahya MI AS, which recently started production of fused magnesia. The company is also assessing the start up of a new dead burned magnesite kiln to add to its existing DBM capacity of 180,000 tpa.

In the Eskisehir-Kumbet area Akdeniz Mineral Kaynaklari (AMK) produces magnesite and caustic calcined magnesia. Between December 2009 and February 2010 AMK completed a renovation on one of its two shaft kilns, increasing production by 60%, the company told IM.

Regarding magnesite markets, AMK is positive: “The outlook for 2010 is very bright, because the demand for AMK’s products is above any expectation,” Muzaffer Bayazõt, managing director, explained.

One magnesite company looking to make an impact is Trabzon Mining & Metal Corp, based in Aşkale, which is targeting 100,000 tpa DBM production after an $18m. investment in a DBM plant. Trabzon is planning to mine 280,000 tpa raw magnesite sourced from eight open pit mines.

New IM deposits

One of Turkey’s most recent industrial mineral exploration projects to gain attention is Oreko Mining Inc.’s development of a barytes deposit in Ordu province. Oreko, a subsidiary of Berggruen Holdings, is looking to produce 20,000 tpa of drilling grade barytes with a 4.2 SG.

“We are at the investment stage,” Oreko’s managing director, DŸndar Ergunalp, told IM. “We plan to be operational by the end of the year.”

Oreko’s project is the only recent development of barytes in Turkey and will be a welcome new source of 4.2 SG material. The American Petroleum Institute recommends 4.2 SG barytes for the drilling market, but shortages last year led to the API endorsing use of the lighter 4.1 SG grade.

In addition to barytes, Oreko is evaluating a garnet deposit with a measured resource of 350,000 tonnes. The company is looking to begin production from the site in 2011, selling material to the water jet cutting industry. If successful, Oreko would be Turkey’s sole producer.

“Now that the local dimension stone industry is galloping, so does the demand for water jet cutting,” Ergunalp explained.

Exploration: zeolites

Exploration in Turkey is a continuing task for the MTA the government body responsible for all mineral exploration and geological maps of the country. Recent discoveries, outlined below, have focused on identification of evaporite and zeolite minerals.

Zeolites are an important mineral product for Turkey. One of the country’s leading producers is Incal Mineral Mining and Trading Co. which produces 10,000 tpm from its mine in Gordes. The company primarily sells zeolites to the agriculture, aquaculture and animal feed sectors.

To the south of Ankara the MTA has conducted exploration work on the Aktepe Formation, which comprises three zeolitic tuffaceous layers including dominant chabasite, a tectosilicate mineral of the zeolite group. The mineral associations in zeolitic tuffs are determined as chabasite + erionite + clinoptilolite, and chabasite + erionite + clinoptilolite + K-feldspar.

Three main layers occur in the exploration area; layer one at 40cm thickness, layer two at 65cm thickness, and layer three at 80cm thickness. Accompanying these layers are chabasite-bearing zeolitic tuff lenses 10-20cm thick. The MTA believes that this resource is potentially economic and could represent a total zeolite resource of 100,000 tonnes.

Sodium sulphate: glauberite

In the Ereğli-Bor basin of southern Anatolia the MTA has documented sedimentary, volcaniclastic and volcanic rock units. The Neogene-aged Ereğli-Bor basin is a tectonically controlled, buried graben basin, containing syngenetically deposited sediments.

The basement rocks to the basin include the Zeyvegediği anhydrite, an evaporitic sequence of marine-shallow lagoon environment. Within the basin itself are lacustrine-alluvial fan sediments, saline mud flat-playa lake sediments, and shallow lake-alluvial fan sediments. These are covered by the Melendizdağ and Hasandağ volcanics and their pyroclastic rocks.

The MTA conducted 15 core drillings in the basin. The evaporitic zone was intersected, starting at 300m below the surface and continuing down to 650m. The zone consists of gypsum/anhydrite, glauberite, halite-blodite, bituminous shale, mudstone-siltstone-sandstone alternation. Glauberite-halite and blodite salts alternate with bituminous shale units in the evaporitic zone.

The MTA believes that the glauberite, which has an average thickness of 26.5m with a 33% Na2SO4 content, could potentially be commercially developed. Glauberite is a sodium sulphate mineral and the Ereğli-Bor production could be developed for the detergents and pulping markets.

Sodium sulphate: blodite

Another sodium sulphate deposit documented by the MTA is located in Lake İshaklõ, a seasonal lake residing in the ‚ankõrõ-‚orum basin to the north of İshaklõ Village (Bayat-‚orum).

Lake İshaklõ covers an area of approximately 220,000 m2. During winter and spring months it becomes a lake with a depth of more than 2m, but evaporation sets in during the hotter months drying up the lake and forming a white mineral crust (see photo).

According to the results of analyses (XRD and SEM) conducted by MTA, it has been determined that the predominant mineral in the area is blodite; however, thenardite (Na2SO4), small amounts of halite (NaCl) and gypsum (CaSO4.2H2O) accompany this precipitation.

The sodium sulphate crust of blodite and thenardite reaches an average thickness of 3cm over an evaporation area of approximately 187,500 m2, which MTA believes is economic.

Strategic plan: the future

Last year the MTA released its strategic plan for mineral resource development over a period between 2010 and 2014. The plan is split between four sections: scientific and geologic research, mineral exploration, organisation, and environmental technologies.

The MTA’s ambitious plan for scientific and geologic research includes:

  • An update of geological maps (243 maps at 1:100,000 scale) in five years
  • Fault mapping of the last 100 years of earthquakes in 1:25,000 scale (finished by 2012)
  • Palaeoseismological work on active faults
  • Mineral deposit modelling
  • Data gathering from geothermal resources
  • Satellite data analyses of 150,000km2/year

The MTA’s strategic plan for exploration of metallic, industrial and energy resources is not specifically geared to industrial minerals, but includes:

  • Continuation of exploration activity on metallic and industrial resources
  • Compilation of prospects
  • Exploration for geothermal resources and determination of protected areas around these resources
  • Increased capacity in drilling
  • Continuation of geophysical studies

Exploration companies in Turkey told IM they have been surprised by the lack of targets regarding development of the country’s rich mineral wealth.

“Mining has never had a high priority in the state plans and budgets,” one source commented. “However, lately there are moves to allow the MTA to trade its mineral rights. This would generate revenue. There has also been a move to introduce standards on exploration and resource/reserve reporting like JORC.”

Some industry sources believe there is a “serious concern” regarding the number of licences granted under the present mining law some figures estimate as many as 70,000 so far, with around 30,000 later returned and offered through biddings.

“The present system of free for all is choking,” one company stated, “but the MTA could have an auditing role to play in applying the proposed standards and also in generating revenue.”

For now, the message of the country appears to be this: Turkey’s industries are fast developing and more and more markets for industrial minerals are opening up. All that is needed is companies to develop the mineral resources.


Murat, A. 2010. Geological and economical properties of newly discovered Na-salt (glauberite-halite-blodite) deposits in Ereğli (Konya) Bor (nigde) Basin, Turkey.

Şahin, M. B. 2007. An important chabasite occurrence in Central Anatolia and its mineralogical features. MTA Bulletin, 135, p.31-44.

Sšnmez, İ. 2010. Actual blodite mineral precipitation in a seasonal lake in ‚ankiri-‚orum basin. MTA Bulletin, 140, in press.

Spotlight: Esan Eczacõbaşõ

Esan’s second feldspar flotation plant in Yenikoy,
Milas, increased the company’s flotation capacity
to 500,000 tpa. Esan Eczacõbaşõ

One of Turkey’s leading ceramic mineral producers is Esan Eczacõbaşõ Industial Raw Materials Co. a subsidiary of Eczacibasi Holding which was established in 1979. The company produces more than 2m. tonnes of various industrial raw materials, from 25 quarries in five different regions.

Esan’s principal product is feldspar, which is mainly produced in Menderes massive (Muğla-Aydõn region). The majority of the feldspar is sold after crushing-blending, with smaller amounts sold after treatment via flotation, grinding or magnetic separation processes.

In the second half of 2008 Esan significantly upped its feldspar capacity with the installation of a new flotation plant in Yenikoy, Milas region. This was Esan’s second flotation plant (the first was established in the 1980s) and it enabled the company to increase flotation capacity to 500,000 tpa.

In ‚anakkale and Balõkesir mines Esan produces kaolin and halloysite. Kaolin is mainly sold to ceramic and white cement manufacturers in domestic and international markets after crushing and blending.

Esan produces refined ball clay at its enrichment plant in Bozuyuk, Balõkesir region. Here, sandy clays from the Sogut district are processed and sold to the ceramics sector. The Bozuyuk plant produces different qualities of refined ball clays, including high-plastic clays as well as casting clays, with a total capacity of 75,000 tpa.

From the Menderes massive Esan produces quartz, which is sold to the glass, ceramic and building industries. While in Balõkesir, Esan operates a sand production facility mainly supplying the building and ceramic sectors.

In mid 2007 Esan started to operate the ‚ine processing plant (Aydõn region) in order to produce granulised and micronised quartz. The plant, which has a capacity of 90,000 tpa quartz, primarily supplies the engineered stone, ceramic and glass sectors.

One recent development is talc production, which Esan started in 2009 at a site in Sivas, the company revealed to IM. Talc is processed and sorted into different sizes, then sold into the paint and plastic industries.

Turkey at a glance

GDP in 2008: $794bn. with GDP growth rate of 3.75% annually. In 2008 Turkey’s mining industry accounted for 7.07% of its industrial sector and 1.37% of its GDP.

Mining exports in 2008: $3.2bn.


Mining laws: amended in June 2004 to create a more investment-friendly environment for foreign firms.

amended in June 2004 to create a more investment-friendly environment for foreign firms.

Main exported IMs in 2009: natural stone (4.96m. tonnes), chromite ore (including metallic grades 1.71m. t), feldspar (2.87m. t), gypsum and plasters (802 kt), borates and concentrates (328 kt), perlite (257 kt), bentonite (250 kt), magnesite (190 kt), quartz and quartzite (172 kt), pigments and mica (164 kt), barytes (119 kt).

natural stone (4.96m. tonnes), chromite ore (including metallic grades 1.71m. t), feldspar (2.87m. t), gypsum and plasters (802 kt), borates and concentrates (328 kt), perlite (257 kt), bentonite (250 kt), magnesite (190 kt), quartz and quartzite (172 kt), pigments and mica (164 kt), barytes (119 kt).

Share of world IM reserves: perlite (74%), boron minerals (72%), marble (40%), Na feldspar (19.14%), asbestos (14.82%), bentonite (13.4%), pumice (9.74%), salt (9.4%) celestite (5.54%), diatomite (4.81%), barytes (4.73%), magnesite (4.35%), trona (2.11%), chromite (1.44%), kaolin (0.65%), fluorspar (0.53%), sodium sulphate (0.36%), bauxite (0.26%), phosphate (0.14%), corundum (0.12%), sulphur (0.04%), talc (0.04%).

perlite (74%), boron minerals (72%), marble (40%), Na feldspar (19.14%), asbestos (14.82%), bentonite (13.4%), pumice (9.74%), salt (9.4%) celestite (5.54%), diatomite (4.81%), barytes (4.73%), magnesite (4.35%), trona (2.11%), chromite (1.44%), kaolin (0.65%), fluorspar (0.53%), sodium sulphate (0.36%), bauxite (0.26%), phosphate (0.14%), corundum (0.12%), sulphur (0.04%), talc (0.04%).

Sources: World Bank, MTA, IMMIB

Table 1 : Selected new expansion and exploration projects in Turkey

Company Mineral Location Comments
Akdeniz Mineral Kaynaklari magnesite, CCM Eskiehir-Kümbet between December 2009 and February 2010 AMK completed a renovation on one of its two shaft kilns, increasing production by 60%. AMK has mining concessions with a total area of 4,350 hectares with a reserve of 3m. tonnes magnesite.
Albuck Mining bauxite Milas-Mula,
Eskiehir produces bauxite for the calcium aluminate cement (CAC), Portland cement, steel flux, mineral fibres and abrasives markets. In near future Albuck is planning to enter new speciality markets such as proppants.
Plans to increase production to 350,000 tpa cement and steel grades within 2-3 years. Aims to jointly develop new bauxite grades and new mines internationally.
Amcol Minerals Madencilik bentonite Enez Edirne new subsidiary of Amcol Minerals Europe (AME) with 150,000 tpa bentonite capacity. “Most attractive” markets for AMM include foundries and metal casting.
Bommag Ltd (formerly Calmag) magnesite, CCM Tavsanli produces dead burned magnesite and caustic calcined grades. Presently assessing a 7,500-15,000 fused magnesia plant.
Demireller Mining bauxite Mersin emerging producer of non-metallurgical bauxite, thought to be the largest supplier of calcium aluminate cement-grade bauxite in Turkey. Also produces Portland cement and steel flux grades, with total bauxite output of 500,000 tonnes in 2008. Considering entering markets for abrasives and mineral wool.
Esan Eczacıbaı talc Sivas, Milas recently began talc production in Sivas, with the material sold to the paint and plastic industries.
Esan is one of the largest feldspar producers in Turkey and has also boosted production to 500,000 tpa following the installation of a new flotation plant in Yenikoy.
Eti Soda (in j-v with Ciner Group) soda ash, sodium bicarbonate Beypazarı, near Ankara significant new producer of dense soda ash with 1m. tpa capacity. Produces 100,000 tpa of technical grade sodium bicarbonate but targeting feed and food grades in a “few months”. Also targeting 30,000 tpa caustic soda. Beypazarı trona seam claimed to be second largest reserve in the world.
GMM NV construction and high purity quartz grades Çine subsidiary is Ocak Madencilik Mineral. Owns concessions in Çine spanning 5,000 ha. Exploring for high purity quartz, targeting 5,000-10,000 tpa for solar cell market. Establishing a 15,000 tpa quartz processing plant in Germany for this market.
Incal Zeolite zeolites Gordes produces 10,000 tpm zeolites for the agriculture and animal feed sectors. Incal has established a pilot plant for a new clinoptilolite-based fertiliser line which is currently running at 3,000 tpm.
Laviosa Sanayi ve Ticaret Ltd bentonite Fatsa recent subsidiary of Laviosa Chimica Mineraria. Targeting 50,000 tpa dried granulated bentonite to supply cat litter, paper and detergents markets. Laviosa has reported growth in the cat litter market and “large opportunities” in the foundry and industrial markets.
All bentonite is mined locally and the company told IM it is looking at local deposits to evaluate “any future opportunities”.
Kuma Kutahya MI AS magnesite, DBM, FM Kutahya planning to develop a new kiln for dead burned magnesite and recently began producing fused magnesia.
Oreko Mining Inc. barytes, garnet
Ordu targeting 20,000 tpa drilling grade barytes with a 4.2 SG. Also looking to produce garnet for water jet cutting industry from measured resource of 350,000 tpa. Would be sole Turkish producer if successful.
Rio Tinto trona Kazan, near Ankara developing the Kazan trona project – a resource exceeding 600m. tonnes grading an average 31% trona. Original mining estimate targeted 2011 start-up.
Trabzon Mining & Metal Corp magnesite Akale targeting 100,000 tpa DBM production after $18m. investment in a DBM plant at Akale, near Erzurum. Planning to mine 280,000 tpa raw magnesite sourced from eight open pit mines exploiting 4.2m. tonnes of owned magnesite reserves.

Table 2: Turkey’s industrial minerals production, 2008

Mineral Production (tpa)
Alumina* 163,455
Aluminium sulphate 2,511
Antimony* 28,000
Barytes 184,041
Bauxite* 921,369
Bentonite 1,742,487
Boron minerals 4,406,970
Celestite 6,700
Chromite* 466,175
Clay 2,871,145
Diatomite 33,135
Dolomite 15,672,171
Emery 19,108
Feldspar 6,548,796
Graphite 400
Gypsum 3,241,177
Kaolin 914,117
Lime 3,600,000
Limestone 7,171,000
Magnesite 2,100,000
Marble 2,801,757
Mica 61,087
Olivine 145,839
Perlite 270,000
Pumice 3,995,423
Quartz and quartzite 2,146,969
Rutile 20
Salt 1,500
Silica sand 4,997,694
Soda ash 947
Sodium sulphate 1,120,968
Sulphur 106,000
Talc 12,722
Zeolites 104,138

*including metallurgical and non-metallurgical grades
Source: US Geological Survey

Table 3: Turkey’s mining institutions*

Institution Activities
Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources Ministry defines general mining policies and strategies
General Directorate of Mining Affairs Grants mining licenses and supervises mining activities and permits
General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration Responsible for mining exploration and geological maps
ETI Mine Enterprises Established in 1935 to oversee mining, production and marketing of Turkey’s boron minerals. Policy is to sell value-added products, such as concentrated boron grades, boron chemicals and equivalent products, to retain wealth for Turkey
Governorship of Provinces Grants mining licenses and supervises mining activities and permits for aggregates

*Only institutions related to the development of industrial minerals are listed