The past 12 months
have seen a change of pace in the non-metallurgical chromite
2011 saw a flurry of
price increases and tighter supply with South Africa, the
worlds largest chromite producer, at the forefront of
this activity, as producers battled with increasing energy and
logistics costs, amid a perceived supply shortage.
But 2012 saw the
market stabilise, as producers settled into a more steady
Breaking this mould
early this year was German chemicals group Lanxess AG, which
announced a 40m ($53m) investment in the construction of
a new carbon dioxide concentration unit at its chromium
chemicals plant in Newcastle, South Africa, to produce sodium
dichromate for leather tanning applications.
Sodium dichromate is
produced via CO2 pressure saturation, whereby sodium
monochromate is converted to sodium dichromate requiring
permanent supply of highly concentrated
investment in South Africa marks another step within our BRICS
strategy, Rainier van Roessel, Lanxess board member,
said. It allows the best possible capacity utilisation of
our Newcastle plant and sets the basis for future expansion of
Gulf Mining Group
also expanded by doubling the capacity of its Oman chromite
processing plant up to 30,000 tpm, CEO Kanwal Gambhir told
IM in February. The plant was Omans
first chromite processing plant when it opened in 2010 with a
feed capacity of 15,000 tpm chromite.
Corp., one of the largest producers of chromite for
non-metallurgical uses, also expanded and updated its South
African chromite plant
The $5m-upgrade will
expand the plant, upgrade waste-stream benefication, improve
quality control and improve and expand product range
capability, Joe Howden, Amcol global marketing director for
chromite, told IM in February. The plant will
have an expanded capacity of 100,000 tpa.
The current chromite
mine is an opencast mine, but the company needs to do the
development work and planning for future underground mining, he
The Ring of
The Ring of Fire
chromite region in Canada is a series of new deposits being
developed that could change the global supply-demand
As the chromite
industry is focused principally on the metallic side of the
industry, it emerged this year that effectively all the
chromite produced is destined for the ferrochrome industry,
although some producers would consider non-metallurgical uses.
No plans for this have been announced as yet.
turn to chromite
Chromite demand was
helped during the year as Chinese foundries started to turn to
chromite sands as a replacement for costlier zircon, whose high
prices have hit profits. Several small- and medium-sized
Chinese foundries, particularly small-sized pump manufacturers,
have widely used chromite sands of 70/140 mesh or 100/200 mesh
to replace zircon.
Casting (EPC) manufacturers have also started to import
chromite to replace zircon due to the limited availability of
domestic chromite. More than 80% of imports are coming from
South Africa, Turkey and India, but export policies within
these countries India has already limited chromite ore
exports threaten to tighten supplies further.
While chromite has
similar properties to zircon, it cannot replace the mineral in
high-end precision casts for export markets. As such, chromite
substitution is not expected to impact the market for zircon in
these higher-quality markets.
South Africa on
South Africa was hit
by a series of strikes during the latter half of the year.
These affected chromite producers as well as miners from the
countrys other large industries platinum group
metals and iron ore.
At the time,
employees for various South African mining companies were on
legal and illegal strikes and transport workers, such as truck
drivers, were on legal strikes. The strikes slowed production
at the mine level, preventing material from reaching the
While the strikes
have mostly ended, the knock-on effects will be felt for some
time. Miners in the region are making more effort to negotiate
with workers to avoid such action, Rio Tinto outlined at the
TZMI conference held in Hong Kong during November.
The strikes began as
a pay dispute at Impala Platinum. Violence saw 45 people, 34 of
them miners, killed by police at Lonmins Marikana mine,
the Financial Times reported.
The unrest then
branched into the wider mining industry, with various transport
firms going on legal strikes, leading to the disruption of fuel
and product deliveries around Johannesburg.
Kumba Iron Ore, a
subsidiary of Anglo American, was one of the largest companies
to be caught up in the unrest, the Financial Times
The company had to
suspend production at Sishen, the countrys largest iron
ore mine, after some 300 illegally striking workers blocked
access to the pit.
It was estimated at
the time that there are more than 75,000 miners caught in
illegal strike action across a variety of companies including
leader chromite company Samancor.
producer Oregon Resources Corp. slashed chromite production at
its processing plant by half towards the end of the year
because of severely reduced demand.
The company is also
reducing production from its mine in Oregon, US, choosing to
operate on just four days per week instead of seven, local
newspaper The World reported. [The mine and
plant] will reduce operating hours to match production volumes
with sales volumes, the company said.
decisions are never made lightly, but if we dont take
action now, potentially everyone could be unemployed,
Wayne Knott, CEO, told The World. Production at its
plant, which can produce between 70,000-75,000 tpa chromite,
will be increased when market conditions improve, it
Other market sources
indicated to IM that demand in certain
segments of the market was remaining strong enough to keep