Imerys GCC is supplied in slurry form
to paper mills in Jiangsu province, China
During the last decade, the industry of ground calcium
carbonate (GCC) has been expanding dramatically, thanks to an
increasing demand from its main end market, the paper
World production of GCC has
increased dramatically to 80m. tonnes in 2009 from 56m. tonnes
Having been severely affected by
the financial crisis, sources from the industry agree on the
fact that 2010 showed cautious signed of recovery, although the
industry is not back yet to pre-crisis levels. The market
is very competitive, Vipul Joshi, marketing manager at
Specialty Minerals Inc. (SMI), USA, declared to
Among the main challenges, GCC
producers have to deal with increasing transport and energy
costs which account for more than 50% of the final price. In
addition, while GCC consumption is increasing, prices are
decreasing. Prices are low because of the competition and
because consumers consider GCC as a low cost commodity without
taking into account the technicality of the product and the
high value it has in their processes, underlined
Catherine Delfaux, managing director at France-based Provencale
The crisis seems to also have
triggered new trends in the industry. Our clients are
shifting their volumes to create more profitable plants.
Volumes are the same but companies tend to regroup their
activities in order to optimise their results. This trend
started before the crisis but it has expanded since then,
a source from a leading producer explained to
But the most significant new trend
during the last four years is that GCC world production shifted
geographically from mature to emerging markets.
Whereas Europe was the main
producer with North America in 2004, with respectively 40% and
32% of the shares, Asia now leads the way with 35% of the world
production, followed by Europe (30%) and North America (27%)
(see Figure p.36).
China became a leading producer
with almost 18.5m. tpa with Japan but European countries such
as Austria, France, Germany, Norway and Spain are still major
players in the industry along with the USA. About ten major
producers lead the GCC global market which is mainly dominated
by Switzerlands Omya AG and Frances Imerys SA.
The GCC market is relatively
stable with declining growth in mature markets, like Europe and
North America for the paper industry, a source from the
industry told IM.
Leading GCC producers
Europe loses leading place
Although the global share of
Europes GCC production decreased from 40% in 2004 to 30%
in 2009, European GCC production increased during these five
years from 22.4m. tonnes to 24m. tonnes in 2009.
Leading producing countries include
Austria, France, Germany, Norway, Italy, Finland, Turkey,
Russia and Spain, accounting for an estimated 65% of the
European production. There is also production in Turkey, the UK
According to a report by the
Chemical Economics Handbook - HIS, it is estimated that in
2010, approximately 6.7m. tonnes of GCC were consumed in the
paper industry, including 0.2m. tonnes consumed in paper filler
applications and 4.8m. tonnes consumed in paper coating.
A significant share of the
GCC sold is marketed as slurry, which simplifies use in the
paper mills. Because of transportation costs, the economic
sales radius of slurries is lower than that for solid
material, senior analyst Stefan Schlag explained in the
GCC is by far the dominant filler
in the European plastics industry, according to HIS. About 2m.
tpa are used annually, at loading levels of 15-80% in a wide
range of plastics materials, in particularly in PVC.
In Europe, GCC resources include
marble, limestone, and chalk. Europe has abundant deposits of
very-high-purity GCC-grade material, which are easily ground
into a wide spectrum of particle sizes of fine ground calcium
carbonate (FGCC). The use of higher-priced for PCC is typically
limited to high-value-added products and used when special
physical properties are needed that cannot be met by FGCC.
Particle size and uniform particle
distribution are important factors when carbonate filler is
chosen. PCC can be manufactured more economically than FGCC in
smaller particle sizes.
As Schlag underlined, the market
for calcium carbonate in Europe differs from that of the USA.
FGCC in Europe, also known as natural calcium carbonate (NCC),
that is produced locally, is of very high purity and the
competition between FGCC and precipitated calcium carbonate
(PCC) is very strong. The European FGCC industry is clearly
dominated by Omya which controls over 50% of the European FGCC
market. Other large companies are Imerys and Carmeuse.
In fact, the competition between
the main FGCC suppliers - Omya, Carmeuse and Imerys -
and those of PCC - Omya, Solvay and Specialty Minerals
Inc. - has intensified in recent years not only in Europe
but also worldwide.
Omya has an estimated production
capacity of close to 10m.tpa of FGCC in Europe. It owns
subsidiaries in almost all European countries and keeps growing
Imerys entered the European FGCC
market by acquiring English China Clays Plc (ECC) in April
1999. ECC International, a subsidiary of ECC, had an annual
production capacity of around 2m. tonnes within Europe. ECC
International became part of the newly created Pigments &
Additives Division within the Imerys Group.
Mainly depending on the paper and
construction industries, it comes as no surprise that the GCC
industry was significantly impacted by the financial crisis. A
few companies had to take action as a result of a decline in
demand, particularly from the paper industry.
In 2009, Imerys closed its GCC
plant in Salisbury, UK. Meanwhile, Carmeuse had to put
production on hold at its plant in Seilles, Belgium, and to
stop production at its sites of Baccon and Montmorency. Omya
reduced the number of production sites at its subsidiary
Clariana in Spain.
The crisis particularly had a
big impact on the Scandinavian countries, as source from
a leading European producer told IM.
Even if the European GCC industry
is on the way to recovery, it is not yet back to pre-crisis
level. The new trend is that there are now shifts in
productions within European countries as leading companies tend
to regroup their production in order to increase profitability.
Volumes are the same in Europe but they are just shifting
between countries, especially in Central Europe, the
source said, adding: GCC in Europe is not growing. It is
Growth of GCC production in China from 1992 to 2008
(KT) for all markets
Source: Ian Wilson
In North America, the trend is
similar to Europe. GCC production cautiously increased from
18.3m. tonnes to 21.6m. tonnes between 2004 and 2009 while the
share fell from 32% to 27% during that time.
According to HIS, six companies
supply over 90% of the total FGCC market in the USA -
Omya, Imerys, Franklin Industrial Minerals (part of the Lhoist
Group), Minerals Technologies Inc. (MTI), and Huber Engineered
Materials. Omya has the largest annual capacity, at around
2.8m. tonnes. Franklin Industrial Minerals and MTI have about
2m. tonnes of capacity each, followed by Huber Engineered
Materials and Imerys with an estimated 1.5m. tonnes of FGCC
Specialty Minerals Inc. (SMI), a
subsidiary of MTI is the industry leader in PCC, operating 28
plants in North America and a total of 53 worldwide. In 2010,
SMI accounted for approximately 66% of the PCC capacity in the
As a result of declining paper
consumption and closures of paper mills between 2007 and 2008,
paper production decreased slightly in the USA. Consumption
also substantially decreased in 2009, with the dramatic decline
of the US paper output by about 18% compared to 2006.
Paper production started to rebound
last year and growth is expected to be modest in the
2010Ð2015 forecast period, revealed HIS. GCC
consumption is expected to grow slower than PCC at about 0.5%
In Canada, approximately 4,000
tonnes calcium carbonate were exported and 94,000 tonnes of all
types of calcium carbonate were imported in 2010. By far the
largest part of the traded calcium carbonate is shipped between
the USA and Canada.
In Mexico, production of calcium
carbonate was about 530,000 tonnes in 2010, down from 600,000
Reduction of output is
largely due to the strong decline of export volumes, and to a
lesser extent due to slightly reduced domestic consumption as a
consequence of the economic downturn, explained
Total consumption of FGCC and PCC
in 2010 is estimated to be around 522,000 tonnes with about 90%
of the consumed calcium carbonate is in the form of FGCC,
according to HIS data. Last year, Mexico exported about 15,000
tonnes of FGCC mostly with the USA.
Asia climbs to
During the last decade, Asia has
grown dramatically to become the world leading GCC producer.
Ranking third in 2004 behind Europe and North America, Asia
doubled production from 13.8m. tonnes to 28m. tonnes between
2004 and 2009 and the region now controls 35% of the world
China and Japan are the two main
GCC producers in Asia, followed by South Korea (1.96m. tpa),
Indonesia (1.1m. tpa), Taiwan (1.1m. tpa), Thailand (1.1m.
tpa), Malaysia (840,000 tpa), and India (560,000
China leading the way
During the last few years, China became the heaviest GCC player
in Asia with a 66% share. China is now the leading producer in
the world of finer-grade products (USA with 24% of production
includes coarser-grained products).
Starting from 0.28m. tonnes in
1992, production in the country kept growing during the last
two decades to triple from 5.7m. tonnes to almost 18.5m. tonnes
between 2004 and 2009, thanks to a growing demand from its main
domestic end markets: paper and plastics.
As consultant Ian Wilson explained
to IM, back in the early 1990s the production
of wet GCC in China was very limited with low brightness chalk
being imported from ECC (Beverley, UK) and Omya (France) as
powder and made-down on-site into slurry for use as a coating
About 65% of Chinese GCC is mainly
split between two main markets: paper and plastics. The paper
industry uses 6.5m. tonnes of Chinese GCC (35%) while plastics
use 5.5m. tonnes (30%), the remaining being used for paint,
sealants and rubbers.
In China, there is a shortage of
high quality kaolin deposits suitable for paper coating. China
has abundant sources of high quality marble near to the main
papermaking areas. An important development has been the
installation of satellite wet-grinding technology for GCC. The
first satellite plant in China was at APP Ningbo Chung Hua mill
in 1993 with a capacity of 30,000 tpa. In 1997, APP Dagang
commissioned ECC International (now Imerys) to build a turnkey
250,000 tpa GCC Satellite plant.
Now, finer grades are being
developed (up to 98 %<2µm) which gives improved.
Previously topcoats were a blend of 70% GCC and 30% kaolin. The
ratio is now 85-90% GCC + 10-15% kaolin., Wilson
In 2009, China became the
worlds largest producer of paper and board (P&B) with
an estimated 90m. tonnes, up from 20m. tonnes in 1995 and 78m.
tonnes in 2008. Chinese P&B output is expected to reach
98m. tonnes in 2010. As the paper industry is expected to
continue its dramatic growth, Chinese GCC still has bright days
It is estimated that over 600
companies produce calcium carbonate in China and projects keep
flourishing to meet increasing demand. Marble deposits are
widespread in China with major areas of production in Guangxi,
Anhui, Zhejiang and other provinces.
Leading producers include Imerys
Pigments Co. Ltd in the Anhui province with 700,000 tpa GCC in
Qingyang and 250,000 tonnes GCC in Nanling; Jiangxi Guangyan
Chemical Co. Ltd with 550,000 tpa GCC in Yongfeng, Jiangxi; and
Guangfu Building Materials Fine Chemicals Industry Co. Ltd with
400,000 tpa in Jiaoling, Guangdong.
New production came on stream
during the last three years including Babuqu Xiwan Yaode Powder
Co. Ltd (200,000 tonnes) in March 2009 and Benxi Baixing Powder
New Material Development Co. Ltd (200,000 tonnes) in October
2008 in Benxi, Liaoning.
Japan produces 9% of Asias
GCC, with 2.5m. tpa. The industry has been seriously affected
by the earthquake and tsunami that struck the north of the
country on 11 March as several calcium carbonate plants and
paper mills were included in the widespread damage (see
p.8). Several pulp and paper facilities in the region were
severely affected by the catastrophe.
As several large integrated
pulp mills and receiving ports for wood chips from North
America, South Africa and Australia are located there, raw
materials procurement is going to be more difficult for the
country in general, leading information provider for the
global forest products industry RISI reported, quoting a local
Tokyo-based Fimatec Ltd said its
5,000 tpm (60,000 tpa) calcium carbonate plant in Soma,
Fukushima, has been taken offline due to the severe flooding.
No workers at the Soma plant were harmed.
Fimatecs joint-venture 8,000
tpm (96,000 tpa) calcium carbonate plant at Ishinomaki, Miyagi,
which is attached to a paper mill operated by Nippon Paper
Group (NPG), was also closed.
Ishinomaki mill will take a long time to restart, maybe six
months or one year or more, Fimatecs chairman,
Seiji Katayama told IM.
At this moment, we cannot
check how much damage there is, he added.
According to RISI, within Miyagi
prefecture itself, Iwanuma, another of NPGs mills has
also been offline since the quake.
The Ishinomaki mill can produce
643,000 tpa of various wood pulp grades, 370,000 tpa of deinked
pulp, and almost 1.1m. tpa of graphic and specialty paper. The
Iwanuma mills capacity rings up to 420,000 tpa of
thermomechanical pulp, 514,000 tpa of deinked pulp, 522,000 tpa
of newsprint and 120,000 tpa of uncoated mechanical and
woodfree paper. Both plants have a capacity of 173,000 tpa
Further afield on the northwestern
coast, the Akita mill, operated by NPGs subsidiary Nippon
Daishowa Paperboard, has stopped production. NPGs Fuji
mill had also stopped production. Activities were however said
to continueas usual at NPGs other mills, including its
mills in Hokkaido prefecture, which is relatively close to the
quakes epicenter. New Oji Paper and Mitsubishi Paper
Mills Ltd were also said to have stopped some of their
IM understands that a 5,000 tpm (60,000 tpa) calcium carbonate
plant operated by Imerys, also in Ishinomaki, was also damaged
by the tsunami and taken offline.
Following the earthquake and
tsunami, all our employees are safe, said a spokesperson
at Imerys headquarters in Paris, who did not confirm
whether the plant was damaged.
At time of press (end of March),
companies were still assessing the damages and it was still too
early to say it will affect the industry. One of the main
concerns remains supply of raw materials on the medium term.
However, a source from the industry told IM:
It is just a matter of months. The industry will not be
affected on the long term.
Central & South
About 300,000 tonnes FGCC were
consumed in 2010 in Central and South America, according to HIS
data. Most of the FGCC, and an even larger portion of PCC, goes
into paper production. Other important applications are as
filler materials in plastics, adhesives and sealants and
Consumption in paper production
grew in 2007 and 2008 with the growth of paper production, from
235,000 tonnes to 252,000 tonnes in 2008, and decreased with
the economic downturn to about 245,000 tonnes in 2009.
In 2010, with the rebound of the
economy and the production regrowth of the paper industry in
particular in Brazil, consumption of calcium carbonate in paper
production is estimated to reach 268,000 tonnes.
In the other application areas,
consumption increased in 2007 and 2008, and substantially
decreased in 2009 with the economic downturn. In 2010,
consumption started to rebound, and growth is expected to
continue through the 2010-2015 forecast period.
Imerys is one of the leading
producers with a production of 170,000 tpa GCC and FGCC at its
operations in Brazil. Other leading producers include Carbomil
Quimica with 50,000 tpa GCC/FGCC, Micron Ltd in Brazil and Omya
in Chile with 30,000 tpa paper grade GCC.
According to Global Industry
Analysts (GIA) Inc., although the GCC industry witnessed
scarcity in the supply of raw materials, demand is likely to
sustain owing to the imports of raw materials, such as
Supply/demand for fine-ground calcium carbonate by
|Other Asia / Oceania
* 000 tonnes, 2010
Source: CEH estimates - HIS
Africa & Middle East
The region produces about 2.5m. tpa
of FGCC, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Saoudi Arabia, South
Africa, Turkey and the UAE being the main producers.
Omya produces about 50,000 tpa GCC
at its plant in Ramadan city in Egypt and 670,000 tpa of GCC
and FGCC at its three plants in Turkey. Other leading producers
in the region include Saudi Carbonate Industries, Saudi Arabia,
with 200,000 tpa GCC, Nigtas Mikronize and Hisar Maden, Turkey,
with respectively 250,000 tpa and 200,000 tpa.
Paper producers in South Africa,
Turkey and Israel consumed a large portion calcium carbonate.
Consumption of FGCC in the region is estimated at about 440,000
tonnes, mainly in paper production and as afiller in plastics
About 165,000 tonnes of calcium
carbonate of all types were imported in the region in 2010.
Most of this, however, is intraregional trade. Exports were
about 130,000 mostly extra regional exports into Europe and the
New projects are flourishing in the
region in order to meet a growing demand. In Jordan, National
Carbonate Co., which owns a mine in Al-Damkhi, started to
produce at the beginning of March a range of GCC grades for
markets in Africa, the Middle East, and South East Asia. The
operation has a capacity of 60,000 tpa.
The company told
IM that it plans to supply both treated and
non-treated grades at particle sizes at d98 of 4µm, d50
of 0.75µm to d98 of 45µm, for end markets such as
Osama Hawi, sales manager at
National Carbonates, believes that the region has significant
potential for the GCC industry. South East Asia is
searching for cheaper prices and good material, and that comes
from the Middle East only, Hawi told.
West Africa is also a growing end
market to keep an eye on. In the past, European producers
were the only suppliers for West Africa and their
pricesÊwere high. As there is no calcium carbonate
produced in that region, we are exporting from the Middle East.
But even fright costs are high, we still have more competitive
prices than European producers, he explained.
Jordans Eagle Mining also
plans to produce pure limestone by the beginning of 2012 at its
Al-Damkhy deposit located in the western part of Jordan.
Hussein Hiyassat, managing director, revealed to
IM that the company wants to build a calcium
carbonate plant with a capacity of 200,000 tpa for the first
stage before increasing to 500,000 tpa within three years
(see full report p.74).
GCC worldwide markets (80m. tonnes)
Source: Ian Wilson
GCC world production by regions for 2009 (80m.
Source: Ian Wilson
The main end markets for GCC are
paint (9%) and plastics (20%), but paper remains the most
important one with 37% of the world production.
Increasing use of GCC as a pre-coat
and coating pigment in paper has been driving major growth in
the GCC sector, particularly in Europe. GCC is used mainly as a
coating pigment, while PCC is principally used as a filler
(although they can be interchangeable in certain
circumstances). PCC is the dominant product in uncoated
woodfree paper while GCC remains the preferred choice in coated
Papermakers have increased their
consumption of GCC and PCC as cheap and effective alternative
for white pigments such as titanium dioxide (TiO2).
With papermakers seeking optimal formulations, the industry is
increasingly using blended formulations of PCC and GCC, along
with other minerals. GCC blends well with some kaolin products
in topcoat blends for paper coating, eg. 80% GCC to 20% kaolin.
A GCC-PCC blend may contain 40% PCC, 40% GCC, and 20%
Overall, papermakers are aiming to
improve paper quality by increasing the volume of mineral
pigments used, and especially calcium carbonates, with loading
targets in uncoated.
Uncoated supercalendered (SC)
papermakers are converting from using filler clays to
carbonates, or blends of minerals. European papermakers are
using GCC to replace clay fillers to improve brightness.
According to RISI, world paper
production reached 370m. tonnes in 2009 down from 391m. tonnes
in 2008 owing to the financial crisis. The amount of GCC used
for paper production worldwide increased from 22.3m. tonnes to
29.6m. tonnes between 2004 and 2009.
According to data from the
Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), consumption
of calcium carbonate in European coating grew to 7.9m. tonnes
in 2009 from 4.4m. tonnes in 1991. Between 1991 and 2009, the
share of calcium carbonates used in non-fibrous materials for
paper increased from 46% to 54.8% while the share of clays was
decreasing from 40% to 22.5%.
Calcium carbonate consumption,
which had increased to 9.3m. tonnes in 2007, was then affected
by the financial downturn. Paper production reached 103m.
tonnes in 2007 and decreased by 13% between 2007 and 2009.
Following the severe economic
downturn experienced in late 2008 and throughout 2009 the
industry had a much more positive 2010, although overall
volumes remain some way below pre-crisis levels, CEPI
explained, reporting a 8% rise to 98m. tonnes for paper
production in 2010 over 2009.
The paper industry did
slightly better than the European manufacturing industry taken
as a whole, CEPI underlined.
Although it is not yet back to
pre-crisis levels, the GCC industry seems to cautiously be on
the way to better days thanks to paper industry needs and
Asias growing demand.
Increasing use of GCC as a
functional additive and process aid, in addition to its use as
a filler, is expected to healthily push demand for the much
finely ground calcium carbonate. GIA forecast that the global
market for calcium carbonate will reach 108.m. tonnes by 2015.
Increasing use of calcium carbonate in paper
industries,É conversion of existing paper mills from
acid-based process technology to alkaline-based process
technology are few of the key factors influencing market
growth, GIA said, adding that GCC continues to
enjoy increasing demand from the paper industry in paper
coating applications as well as fillers.
Recovery to pre-crisis levels could
be expected for 2011 but it remains difficult to quantify it.
We have no visibility on the long term, a European
producer declared to IM, adding: We deal
with the market on a quarter basis.
However, a source from a leading
producing company warned the limits of paper potential.
We have now reached a limit for the evolution for the
paper industry which could result in a limited growth for
GCC, the source said to IM, underlining
that growth could come from cardboard and packaging. Global
growth in demand for GCC is also expected to increase by an
average 5% for plastics and 4% for paints over the next few
While North America and Europe will
face cautious growth, consumption is likely to increase
considerably in Asia, therefore confirming the recent
geographical shift from mature markets to emerging markets.
It is expected that, in addition to
Asia, regional markets such as South America and the Middle
East will drive a potential growth on the medium term.
Europe is stagnating. The
potential will come from China, because it is such a fast
developing region, and South America. That is where we have to
invest, a European producer told IM.
Growth is neither in Europe nor in the USA. So we have to
develop elsewhere, confirmed to IM a
major player from the industry.
Entering the Asian market however
will not be an easy task. As another European producer
underlined to IM, traditional GCC
suppliers are finding it difficult to enter the Chinese market
as there are a lot of small local producers and the paper
industry in China, traditionally a big market for calcium
carbonate, is often backwards integrated into manufacturing its
Paper exports from Europe to Asia are rapidly declining
while first imports of Asian papers to European markets have
started. This is related to declining domestic demand for paper
in Europe versus increasing demand in emerging markets. As a
result, production is slowly shifting in the same direction.
This will be an ongoing but slow process, the