Welcome to approximately 60 seconds of reading Mike
ODriscolls take on the weeks news highlights
in the industrial minerals world
Imerys mineral targets
Last week saw world leading industrial minerals group Imerys
release its 2012 results, announcing a net income increase and
growth in revenue.
Its always instructive to see where Imerys is heading
with regard to expansions and acquisitions in both minerals and
The French company is making its first investment for some
time in the fused
alumina sector with construction of a $30m
alumina plant in Bahrain with Al Zayani
Product will be aimed at the abrasives and refractories
markets, and no doubt the cheap energy sources of the region
helped when deciding its location. Production is expected in
Subsidiary C-E Minerals fused alumina plants take
advantage of the hydroelectricity provided in Greeneville,
Tennessee, and Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela.
In Europe, the acquisition of Goonveans
kaolin assets in the UK has strengthened the groups
supply to speciality and ceramic markets.
In Asia, Imerys has increased production capacity of
ceramics activity in Thailand (the group produces
kaolin in the Ranong province). Ground calcium carbonate (GCC)
production capacity serving the paper and packaging markets was
increased in plants in Ipoh, Malaysia, and Miyagi, Japan. The
Ipoh operation focusing on GCC grades for the growth in fillers
in bi-axially oriented polypropylene used in personal care
South America has also seen activity from Imerys.
Construction of a lime plant has commenced in Doresopolis,
Minas Gerais, Brazil, for supplying a range of markets
including steel, paper, chemicals, environment, agriculture,
This is an interesting move Imerys is not known for
lime production, elsewhere in the world its calcium carbonate
reserves are normally exploited for the higher value filler
markets. Clearly, Brazils filler markets are less than
buoyant and/or the company is simply making the most of its
That said, Imerys has acquired Itatex Mineral
Specialties, in Campinas, São Paulo, which
produces kaolin for the paint, polymer, and rubber markets.
Perhaps most intriguing was the acquisition of bauxite
reserves in Pará, north Brazil, of the former refractory
grade bauxite producer MSL
Minerais (eventually swallowed up by Vale but left
idle after production ceased in 2003).
In the results, Imerys merely stated that the mineral is
essential to several refractory and abrasive
applications and so the guessing game continues among
observers as to how the resource will be utilised.
One might be tempted to speculate that Imerys could well be
assessing its newly secured bauxite reserves for a source of
proppant grade bauxite feedstock.
Certainly, Imerys is all of a sudden keen on the oilfield
sector. Not only has Imerys just entered the ceramic
proppant supply market with a new 100,000 tpa
plant in Andersonville, Georgia, but (without much fanfare it
has to be said), the company has just formed what appears to be
a new division Imerys Petroleum, which
replaces the earlier Imerys Oilfield Minerals.
Now Imerys can package together its considerable portfolio
of oilfield minerals: ceramic
proppants, calcium carbonate,
graphite, clays, mica, diatomite, perlite,
What, no frac sand or barite? Might not be for much longer
watch this space!
However, as Imerys formal business groups were
reported in the 2012 results, its oilfield minerals remain
dotted around the houses. For example, the new ceramic
proppants operation is languishing in the already rather
crowded Minerals for Ceramics, Refractories, Abrasives,
& Foundry division. Perhaps changes are afoot in the
not too distant future in this respect.
Emerging bauxite sources in the
Just to note that First
Bauxites development of its Bonasika bauxite
deposit in Guyana has clearly attracted interest in the North
American and European refractories market with its 14 February
announcement of signing 11 Letters of Intent to enter into
off-take agreements for 70,000 tpa of calcined bauxite.
Perhaps of no surprise was the additional announcement of
First Bauxite evaluating its bauxite material for potential use
as a feedstock for proppant production.
And why not? Ceramic proppant sources in the Americas are
limited. The US hosts just three major domestic ceramic
proppant producers, which use kaolin and bauxite feedstock
(Carbo Ceramics, Saint-Gobain, and most recently Imerys), while
in Brazil there is Mineraçáo Curimbaba using
After that there are Chinese imports of ceramic proppants of
varying qualities, mostly based on bauxite (Ill be giving
a presentation on all this at IMs
Bauxite & Alumina Seminar,
13-15 March 2013, Miami, and even more will be
discussed at IMs
Proppant Prospects for Europe, 30
April 2013, London, and
Oilfield Minerals Outlook 2013,
19-21 June 2013, Houston).
However, First Bauxite is not alone. In the US, Potash Ridge
Corp. has a project to develop by 2016 an alunite deposit (a
hydrated aluminium potassium sulphate,
Blawn Mountain, Utah, which envisages, in addition to the
primary target of 630,000 tpa sulphate of potash, some 3.3m tpa
output of 51% alumina content bauxite.
No doubt Potash Ridge will also be soon assessing its
aluminosilicate reserve for potential refractory and proppant
Mike ODriscoll is Global Head of Research and
Consultant Editor at Industrial Minerals, previously he was
Editor of IM 1995-2012.
T: +44 20 7827 6444; firstname.lastname@example.org
Is Europe the next major shale gas play and thus
potential new market for frac sand and ceramic proppants? Find
out at Proppant Prospects for Europe, 30 April 2013,
Global trends in the supply and demand of all oilfield
minerals will be examined at Oilfield Minerals Outlook
2013, 19-21 June 2013, Houston
programme & registration