Global talc production in 2010 was
estimated at 6m tonnes with 18 companies, including nine from
China, accounting for 75% of total output. Within the past few
years, the two leading talc producers in the world have changed
hands. Talc de Luzenac (Rio Tinto Group), the largest producer,
was acquired by French-based company Imerys in 2011, while
Mondo Minerals Holdings BV, which was originally acquired from
Omya AG in 2007 by Hg Capital, was sold to US-based Advent
International in October 2011 .
Chinese talc production remains
stable at 2m tpa, with output continuing from Liaoning,
Shandong and Guangxi Provinces. India continues to develop and
is now the second-largest producing country behind China. A
decline in the use of talc as a paper filler has been more than
offset by good growth in the use of talc in polymers,
especially for automobile parts. New sources of talc are now
being offered from Pakistan and North Korea. However, while
Pakistan is credited with much of the new talc in the market,
the majority is from Afghanistan, where high-quality white talc
is being exported, via Pakistan, to all continents, and even
some to China.
Talc can show variable mineralogy
with the presence of chlorite, carbonate and other minerals.
This can be represented on a triangle with the points as talc,
chlorite and carbonate/others as shown in Figure 1.
The Finnish deposits of Mondo Minerals, when beneficiated with
flotation, become a purer talc with removal of contaminants.
Talc can vary in colour with examples of white, pink, greyish
and green types as seen in Figure 2 overleaf.
Global talc production
Estimated global talc production for 2011 is 6m tpa, with Asia
accounting for 54% followed by Europe (24%), North America
(12%), South America (8%) and Oceania/Africa (2%) Eleven
countries account for 91% of output, with 34 other countries
accounting for the remaining 9%. China accounts for 33% of the
Capacity of Asia output in 2010 was
3.27m tonnes, of which China accounts for 63%, followed by
India with 26%. Output in Europe in 2010 was 1.4m tonnes,
dominated by Finland (35%) and France (29%).
Globally, there are 18 companies
with output of fewer than 100,000 tpy and nine of these are
from China. The Chinese data needs to be updated, but accurate
details are becoming more difficult to obtain. Imerys is the
leading company with 20% of production. In Figure 3,
the nine leading companies outside China are shown, plus China
shown and other companies.
The global markets of 6m tpa in
2010 were paper (34%), followed by polymer (23%), ceramics -
including technical ceramics (15%), paint (12%) and others
It is beyond the scope of this
report to cover all of the markets so just a few sectors will
Talc is a key component in the honeycomb structure of technical
ceramics used in catalytic converters and diesel particulate
filters. With increased emission controls, this sector is
showing good growth. The talc required should be <0.20wt. %
CaO, which is critical to the coefficient of thermal expansion
(CET). Customers developing ultra-thin wall substrates require
macrocrystalline talc to control porosity of the cell
Automotive under-the-hood/bonnet parts require high-aspect
ratio talc to enable under-the-hood parts (heating, ventilation
and air-conditioning units) to perform over a wide temperature
range. High-purity grades are ideal for the long-term thermal
stability of such parts.
In polymer applications, around 75% talc is used in the
automotive industry, primarily in polypropylene (PP). The talc
imparts stiffness to PP, with a 20%-loading increasing
stiffness by up to 80%. The shift to PP was driven by Japanese
auto makers, who reduced the number of parts and total cost of
their cars. Polymer compounders tend to use the finest particle
size and whitest talc products available.
Peter Taylor and David Stuart of
UK-based mineral and chemical supplier, Richard Baker Harrison
Ltd (RBH), in looking at trends in the use of talc in plastics
have noted an increasing trend away from the standard
ground white talc. The less critical markets, which have
more cost pressures, have been moving to purer, but
lower-brightness talc, as an alternative to whiter, but less
For more critical applications in
the automotive industry, there has been a move to finer whiter
talc. RBH has a new grade of high-whiteness 2500 mesh talc that
gives impressive results in talc-filled PP. The new talc-filled
compound shows good properties with respect to flex modulus,
HDT (Heat Distortion Temperature) and scratch resistance.
Talc is beneficiated in many ways, including flotation,
wet-milling, dry-milling by roller mills and jet mills. With
improving quality required, particularly for polymers,
CommodasUltrasort has developed sensor-based sorting on a
colour basis with the separation of black, grey, yellow and red
There are currently 10 operating
units separating talc in the world. It is also possible to use
Near-Infrared (NIR) where colours are the same, but mineralogy
is different, for example separating out white carbonate from
white talc. An example of a current operation is colour sorting
of Talc 7-20mm size (wet), where the objective is to separate
the greenish talc product from white quartz and red, yellow,
dark, black and other minerals. Brightness is increased by more
than three points, more than 50% of the quartz is liberated,
and yellow is reduced by 50%.
At the processing plant stage,
black and white talc are separated from black and brownish
rocks and yellow carbonates.
Germany-based Hosokawa-Alpine is
one of many companies that supply equipment for processing
talc. Pure talc processes easily, but care must be taken where
abrasive contaminants, such as quartz and dolomite, are
present. Because of this, two systems are used for dry grinding
talc to preserve the platy structure:
- The Alpine table roller mill
- AWM produces particle sizes of around 20 microns. The table
roller mill has low energy requirements, gives steep particle
size distribution and is extremely wear-resistant.
- For superfine grinding to
around 1 micron, the Alpine AFG jet mill is utilised with a
multi-wheel classifier. The 800/3 AFG and 1250/AFG jet mills
are presently being used by every market leader in the talc
USGS mineral commodity specialist Bob Virta is a talc
specialist and his findings provide some of the most detailed
information on both the US and global talc markets. According
to his figures, talc production in the US in 2010 was 455,000
tonnes, of which the major market, based on volume, was
ceramics (24%), followed by paper (22%) and paint (19%).
US production is dominated by four
major players - Imerys, SMI, IMI FABI Talc Co. and American
Talc Co. For imports, 2010 figures show talc came mainly from
China in lump form (44% of total), with Canada accounting for
38%. The average price of imported Chinese lump was $191/tonne,
with Canadian processed talc averaging $358/tonne. A total of
241,000 tonnes of talc were imported into the US, led by China
(105,000), Canada (91,700), Japan (3,040), France (1,910),
Brazil (1,150) and 29 other countries (38,600).
Meanwhile, 234,000 tonnes of talc,
mainly white, high-quality talc, were imported, with the major
use being in plastics (60%) followed by cosmetics (13%) and
This shows that the US plastics
market relies mainly on imported talc. The US market in 2010
was 689,000 tonnes with 66% being produced from local sources
of talc and 34% from imported, mainly white, talc. The overall
market split covering both local and imported talc shows
plastics being the largest sector (26%) followed by ceramics
(18%) and paint and paper both on 16%.
USGS Virta reports that in
2011 US imports of talc increased 20% compared with 2010, with
imports from China and Pakistan accounting for a major share of
that rise. Australia, Canada, China and Pakistan supplied
approximately 90% of the talc imported into the US in 2011.
Imports from Australia and Pakistan
rose significantly in 2011 because of increased imports by two
companies, one affiliated with an Australian talc producer and
a second, a mineral trading company. However, it is not
believed that all imports have entered commerce, and it is
likely that 30,000-40,000 tonnes were used to replenish
A major part of the talc imported
from Pakistan is from Afghanistan, but shipped from Karachi.
For example Omar Associates (Pvt) Ltd, Pakistan, made various
shipments from 9 May 2010 to 17 January 2012 from Karachi to
Gramercy and New Orleans, Louisiana. The tonnage was 75,000
tonnes (mainly lump) for delivery IMI FABI plants. Smaller
amounts were delivered elsewhere in the US.
China accounts for one-third of the worlds production of
talc, at present around 2m tonnes. A quota system remains in
place and a total of 407,994 tonnes covering 40 companies was
granted for the first half of 2012. Nine companies account for
60% of the export quotas, with three, Guilin Guiguang Talc
Development Co. Ltd, Liaoning Jiayi Metals & Minerals Co.
Ltd and Guangxi Great-Chem Minerals Trading Co. Ltd, accounting
for 30% of that total.
Export of lump talc from 1998 to 2011 with tonnage and pricing
is shown in Figure 4 and demonstrates that volumes
have reduced by almost half, while prices have increased by
For milled-talc powder, the recent
trend has been to increase exports and pricing, as shown in
This trend is clearly for
increasing exports of powder and reducing exports of lump talc,
as shown in Figure 6.
In 1998, exports by volume of talc
powder were 44%, with 56% for talc lump. In 2011, the powder
exports represented 64%, with 36% for talc lump (see Figure
7). Clearly, China will continue this trend with more
value-added products being exported.
Exports of talc lump from China in
2011 were 241,108 tonnes with a value of $45.1m at an average
fob price of $187.3. Japan and the US account for 79% of the
total exports, as shown in Figure 8.
Talc powder exports from China in
2011 totalled 430,126 tonnes, with a value of $111.4m and an
average price of $259/tonne. Japan (22%), Thailand (21%) and
South Korea (18%) accounted for 61% of the total exports.
Some Chinese companies have
considered improving their processing, and investment has taken
place with optical sorting. However, resources of high-quality
pink and white talc from Liaoning province are diminishing,
with Chinese Customs reporting that high-quality white pure
talc is now being imported from Pakistan. In 2011, talc
imported from Pakistan was 23,009 tonnes at a value of $3.9m
with an average price of $170.7/tonne. The total includes 5,000
tonnes to Shantou Hengxin Ceramic Materials Co. Ltd.
A major region for pure white talc is in the South Asia
subcontinent, with deposits in India, Pakistan, Bhutan and
Nepal. Meanwhile, Afghanistan is now attracting attention as a
source of high-quality white talc for international markets.
Official information is difficult to obtain, but clearly a
significant amount of high-quality talc is coming from
Afghanistan and is then shipped by truck to Karachi for export.
A sketch map of the area (see Figure 9) shows the
location of the main talc deposits in the north of Pakistan and
the adjacent area in Afghanistan near Jalalabad.
Microcrystalline talc associated with magnesite and dolomite is
found in the Sherwan area, west of Abbottabad in Pakistan.
According to Dr Javaid Akhtar of CapriCorn Minerals, there are
four areas mining talc with output of 165,000 tpy, including
20,000 tpy from its Bandi Sadique Deposit.
Talc from north Pakistan and
Afghanistan is taken by truck to Karachi where CapriCorn has a
stockyard and a 5,000-tpy vertical mill, which was installed in
CapriCorn also has 5,000-tpy plant
in Lahore processing high-quality white pure talc, all of which
Talc and magnesite deposits from Nangarhar province in
Afghanistan have been known for a long time. Detailed
exploration was carried out by Russia in the 1970s, although
there has been little further development until recent years.
As part of US Aid (US Agency for International Development)
programme in Afghanistan, the development of the talc industry
has been encouraged and USGS has carried out detailed studies
of the geology of the area with respect to magnesite and talc
Talc is available in many districts
of Nangarhar. This area is very dangerous due to military
action, but talc mining is still being developed. Mining, in
many cases, is rudimentary, but investment in heavier equipment
is being planned as the quality of the talc is very white and
in great demand.
To this end, US Aid has helped
establish a Talc Association. More than 250 association members
assembled in early 2010 to elect a director for the
association, with Muhammad Rahim Karimzai, director of Amin
Karimzai Ltd (a talc trading company in Nangarhar) taking the
position. The association aims to work with government and
international organisations looking to develop the business,
which is currently controlled by traders. A longer-term
programme for investment in local processing facilities now
needs to be established.
One of the highest-quality deposits
is at Khogyani, where the talc is found in bands within
Another deposit is Shinwari, where
the talc is associated with magnesite. Brief details of the
quality of the Khygyani and Shinwari deposits are shown in
The Khogyani and Shinwari deposits
both show low iron and calcium levels, which make them suitable
for high-quality polymers and technical ceramics. Khogyani
shows >99% and Shinwari >97% talc. LOI of Khogyani is
very low at 4.73%, with Shinwari at 5.54% - the slightly higher
figure probably reflecting its association with magnesite.
The Khogyani district has two
mining areas known as Markikhel and Kudikel, which produce
Butter Grade and Grade A respectively. Khogyani is
a very pure talc, with 31.89% MgO, 63.03% SiO2 and
4.73% LOI. In comparison, pure talc has a composition
Mg3Si3O10(OH)2, with 31.70 %
MgO, 63.50% SiO2, 4.8O% H2O.
The Shinwari District has two
mining areas, called Shinwari and Kot, with both producing
Grade A/B talc.
Afghanistan talc output is
conservatively estimated at 200,000 tpy. However, industry
sources indicate that this could well be as much 300,000 tpy or
even more. Clearly, more accurate information is needed.
North Korea has talc deposits associated with magnesite
deposits, in Daehung, Namgye and Riwon. Mondo Minerals
developed the Riwon Deposit and some exports were made for
processing elsewhere. However, following the acquisition of
Mondo Minerals by US company, Advent International, the Riwon
operation has now been sold to a group in Hong Kong.
The talc deposit associated with
the magnesite deposit at Namgye is being developed by Steinbock
Minerals Ltd and Rocky Mountains Industry Development Co. Ltd,
based in Shenzhen, China. Namgye Grade talc is shown in
Chlorite is also associated with
the magnesite deposit and is mined underground.
Professor Wen Lu (Chengdu, China), Dr Jia Xiu Xhuang (Haichen
Minchem, China), Bob Virta and Stephen G Peters (USGS), Stan
Coats and Clive Mitchell (BGS), Rocky Wu (Rocky Mountains
Industry Development Co. Ltd, China), David Coplet (Steinbock
Minerals), Piotr Waga (Steinbock Minerals, Poland), Dr Javaid
Akhtar and Waqar Mahmood (CapriCorn Minerals, Pakistan), David
Stuart and Peter Taylor (Richard Baker Harrison), Dietmar Alber
(Hosokawa Alpine), Murray Lines (Stratum Resources, Australia)
and Jens-Michael Bergmann (CommodasUltrasort, Germany) and