Today most of us will have got up,
made ourselves breakfast, brushed our teeth and had a shower
before getting dressed and going to work. In performing this
simple daily routine, we will have engaged with several
industrial minerals and several end markets including, of
course, ceramics (see Industrial Minerals April
Ceramics are so much a part of our
everyday life it seems inconceivable that this is an industry
which is suffering. But several large ceramics producers have
reported dismal results during the past 12 months, while China,
the worlds largest ceramics producer, has imported fewer
industrial minerals slated for the ceramics market.
A stumbling Eurozone, the US fiscal
cliff and a contracting global economy have impacted all
industries - but there are some areas of growth in ceramics.
India, Brazil and South East Asia, for example, are all seeing
investment, and expansions are taking place.
The economic downturn and the euro
crisis has, unsurprisingly been felt in ceramics markets. In
Italy, which has traditionally been a large end user of
ceramics minerals (see box on minerals p58), the
industry has seen a gradual - and then drastic slowdown.
The Acimac Studies Centre (Italian
Ceramic Machinery and Equipment Manufacturers
Association) released preliminary 2012 year-end figures in
February which showed that the Italian ceramic machinery
industry had a fall in turnover in 2012.
The slowdown in world growth is
prompting cautious forecasts for 2013, the industry body
The Italian ceramic machinery and
equipment manufacturing industry ended 2012 with a small fall
in turnover, after a strong performance in the first six months
of the year, Ceramic Industry magazine reported.
Preliminary year-end figures
published by Acimac put the sectors turnover at around
1.6m ($2.1bn*), down 8.6% from 2011 but 15.4% higher than
Since September, we have been
seeing a widespread downturn in the various world
markets, Fabio Tarozzi, Acimac chairman, said.
The dynamism displayed by
several countries is offset by the slowdown in a number of
longstanding export markets such as Iran, China, India and
Brazil. This makes us very cautious about making forecasts for
next year, he added.
China is well known as a ceramics
hub and consumed more than 250m tonnes of ceramic minerals raw
materials for production of ceramics products in 2010. These
include bentonite, soft-ball clay, hard-ball clay and ceramic
grade kaolin, according to research undertaken by Eileen Hao
China imports around 40,000 tpa of
refined ceramic clay, mainly ball clay, from Europe, South East
Asia, the US and New Zealand, Hao explained during the 21st
IM Congress in Budapest in March last
It also has to import zircon,
ceramic-grade spodumene concentrate and borates.
In 2010, China imported 731,704
tonnes zircon, of which around half was used to produce
zirconium silicate and ceramic opacifiers. It imported almost
250,000 tonnes of borates, mostly from Turkey, and
approximately 225,000 tonnes of boric acid.
Iluka Resources, the worlds
largest mineral sands and zircon producer, reported a sharp
fall in zircon consumption in ceramic tiles - its largest
end-market - in its 2012 results, with this being felt
particularly in China.
Modernisation of tile production
methods, thrifting and substitution of zircon are contributing
factors to this, the company said.
Zircon sales fell 58.4%
year-on-year (y-o-y) to 213,800 tonnes, with sales in the
second half picking up slightly to 126,400 tonnes from just
87,400 tonnes in the first half of the year.
[...] would suggest that these practices, some of which have
had a structural effect on zircon demand, have largely worked
through, the company said. According to Iluka the
practise of modernisation, thrifting and substitution (MTS)
while making porcelain tiles has been more evident in recent
years, especially in China.
In 2012 especially, the
industry has seen three demand effects at work: destocking,
lower manufacturing output and MTS practices, the company
MTS has been noted in Europe over
the last decade, the company said, but it is only recently that
China started to also follow this trend.
Porcelain tiles, which constitute
70% of global zircon consumption for tiles, use the highest
zircon density amongst ceramics products.
Italian polished porcelain tiles
typically have the highest amount of zircon (300 - 1,000
grams/m3) while polished porcelain tiles in China
fall within the range of 10 - 540 grams/m3.
As prices fall, it added, this
trend in the zircon-based opacifier could be somewhat
The weighted average price for
zircon for the year was $2,080/tonne, but given the major
declines in the second half of the year, the price during Q4
2012 was $1,449/tonne.
competitiveness in December led to some further reductions in
prices, the company said.
Sources previously indicated to
IM that prices have now slipped down as low as
$1,300/tonne in some regions.
It is evident that a number
of customers Iluka deals with believe that a stabilisation in
zircon pricing is a necessary precursor to significant demand
resumption following recent sharp declines in pricing, which
have made planning of production, raw material purchases and
flow-on customer commercial arrangements very
challenging, Iluka said.
While minimal inventories of zircon
were held directly downstream of Iluka, a destocking and
working capital adjustment phase has been evident in the
ceramics manufacturing sector, the company added.
This, combined with the adoption of
modern tile-making techniques in China, as well as some level
of thrifting and substitution, had an impact on global zircon
Chinese tile production in 2010 was
significantly ahead of any other country and accounted for 44%
of the global market that year, with 4.2bn m2
produced in comparison with 753m m2 in Brazil and
550m m2 in India, according to Ceramic World
Chinese ceramic output in 2011
reached an estimated 29.8bn pieces, of which 206m was
sanitaryware and 9bn was ceramic tiles, according to Roskill
Information Services, which sourced information from the China
Ceramic Industry Association, China Building Ceramics &
Sanitaryware Association and Eileen Hao Consultancy.
Production of ceramics tile
increased to a 44% share of world production in 2011 from a 39%
share in 2006, Roskills figures show.
Chinas output of tiles is
expected to grow to 9.5bn m2 by 2015, Roskill said,
while tableware is expected to reach 32bn pieces and
sanitaryware 210m pieces.
Porcelain tile is the main ceramic
tile produced in China, Eileen Hao Consultancy data shows
But where else has there been
significant growth in the ceramics industry?
Positive growth in ASEAN region
Thailands Siam Cement Company
(SCG), the worlds second-largest ceramics producer, saw
demand increase in 2012, with 133m m2 of ceramic
tiles sold across all its subsidiaries. While final quarter
2012 sales volume dropped 1% quarter-on-quarter to 32m
m2 sold, this was still 18% up y-o-y. A total of
105m m2 of tiles were sold in 2011.
SCG has a total ceramic tiles
production capacity of 225m m2, of which 48% is in
Thailand, followed by Vietnam (33%), Indonesia (14%) and the
Revenue from sales increased 21%
for 2012 y-o-y, as a result of the growth in the
residential markets (renovations and new homes), in addition to
the consolidation of ceramics plants in the Philippines,
the company said in a presentation to the market.
EBITDA (earnings before interest,
taxes, depreciation, and amortisation) and net profit also
increased in 2012, by 32% and 100% respectively. EBITDA was at
Thai Baht (B) 6,661m ($227.5m*) and profit at B2,949 ($100m) in
the companys building materials segment.
The company pegged this on an
increase in Thai domestic construction activities, with a slide
in Q4 on the back of seasonal factors.
It expected strong demand in
Thailand for the first quarter of 2013 and some recovery in the
Construction made up 49% of FY 2012
earnings, the company said. Tellingly, of the B23,580m ($805m)
earnings, 11% came from building materials. This is compared
with 5% of the earnings share in FY2011.
The company is seeking to expand in
ASEAN countries, it said, and in December 2012 made an
85%-acquisition of Prime Group in Vietnam.
Prime Group operates six ceramic
tiles plants with a total capacity of 75m m2, and is
one of Vietnams leading domestic producers with a local
market share of approximately 20%.
It also possesses other key assets,
such as a clay mine, sand mine, and feldspar mine, which are
all key raw materials for the production of ceramic tiles. It
also has a clay roofing plant with a capacity of 1.5m
In December 2012, Imerys Ceramics
(Thailand) Ltd. acquired Ceraminas (Thailand) Co. Ltd, a Thai
feldspar producer in order to further strengthen its leadership
position as a trusted industrial mineral supplier in Asia.
Established in 2001 close to the main ceramic producing area
(Ayutthaya Province, approximately 100km North of Bangkok)
Ceraminas has a wide range of products for ceramic
manufacturers and glass makers in Asia including: potash and
soda feldspar, quartz powder and silica flour.
Imerys Ceramics Thailand was
already present in Lampang with ball clay facilities and in
Ranong with kaolin operations. The head office located in
Bangkok hosts the sales force and the Asia Technology Group,
the research and development centre dedicated to customer
The importance of
The significance of BRIC countries
(Brazil, Russia, India and China) was underlined by Spanish
group Roca Group at the end of 2011, when it noted that Brazil
had become the companys top market, overtaking Spain for
the first time.
At the time, Roca, which is the
worlds largest producer of ceramics in terms of revenue,
put this down to the flagging construction industry in
This was underlined by Armando
Ibaňez, president of Cevisama.
In todays economic
environment, international markets are no longer an option:
they are an absolute need. Until domestic demand affords new
growth prospects, Spanish companies must look to emerging
economies, and the international marketplace in general, for
opportunities to grow or even hold their own, he said in
his opening address to this years event in February.
In a presentation at
IMs Congress in Budapest last year,
Roskill showed that EU ceramic tile production had fallen from
a 21% share of global output in 2006, to around 11% in
Perhaps in response to this, Roca
opened in October 2011 a new vitreous china sanitaryware plant
in the Santa Luzia II factory complex in southeastern
This new factory [...] will
boost our production capacity in Brazil by 15% to 12.8m
articles a year. It will also increase the production capacity
of the Santa Luzia complex to 4.2m units, making it Rocas
largest production centre in the world, the company said
at the time.
India produced 617m m2
of ceramic tiles in 2011, 12.2% up on the previous year, making
it the worlds third-largest producer country after China
In response to this, Imerys
Ceramics India, the Hyderabad-based company subsidiary of
Imerys Ceramics, said earlier this year that it would be
expanding its blending platform facilities at Nadiad, Gujarat
in north-west India, to customise products required for
sanitaryware and tile makers, and assist customers in their
formulations. The same platform is now being used to develop
various products for other ceramic industries like tableware
The company also recently expanded
its Hyderabad facility to 200,000 tonnes from 150,000 tonnes,
Abu-Dhabi headquartered RAK
Ceramics, the worlds largest ceramics producer, is hoping
to expand its sanitaryware activities further in India and
expand its tile capacity in Bangladesh, it said in its AGM held
on 28 March 2013.
The company has a global annual
production of 117m m2 of ceramic and porcelain
tiles, 4.5m pieces of bathware and 20m
pieces of tableware. In February
2013, it announced that it had
sold 50bn items of sanitaryware,
with 1.05m pieces sold in the last quarter of 2012. The
companys growth was attributed to ceramic tiles.
RAK Ceramics recorded Emirati
Dirham (Dh) 3.3bn ($9m*) in revenue in 2012, of which Dh 370m
($100.7m) was bathware and the rest ceramics. It exports to
more than 160 countries worldwide.
The importance of India as a
ceramics producing hub was also emphasised by the recent
acquisition of Indian Ceramics by Messe Mnchen India
(MMI-India) - one of the largest trade companies in the
Indian Ceramics are exhibitors for
technology and materials for the ceramic industries of the
entire sub-continent and surrounding region.
Looking at the explosive
growth in the real estate and infrastructure sector, and the
need for more and more sophisticated end products, the
potential for the growth of this show is enormous Darryl
Dasilva, CEO MMI-India, said.
* Conversions April 2013
Marble residue and waste
used for tiles?
In an article for Interceram, Manuel Miguel Jordan
argued that municipal solid waste and marble residue rich in
calcium carbonate could be used to make bricks and roofing
This, he suggest, would reduce
pollution and save costs. In tests, the
author found that it was possible to produce modified tile
bodies close in quality to conventional market ceramic
Action elsewhere in ceramics-associated sectors
The largest global end market for talc is still paper, which
accounts for 34% of the minerals end use. The second
largest is the steadily growing polymer market, accounting for
23%, followed by ceramics (15%) and paint (12%). In 2009, China
was the number one producer of paper, coating, automobiles,
household appliances and ceramics. These markets also appeal to
the main application fields of talc and have great market
Talc production in 2010 was
estimated at around 6m tonnes globally, with 18 companies
accounting for 75% of production, nine of which are in China.
Talc production from China remained stable at 2m tpa, and
accounted for about one-third of world talc production. Of the
6m tpa talc produced in 2010, 75% came from 18 companies.
Luzenac Group accounted for 15% of global production, followed
by Mondo Minerals with 13%. However, the talc industry was
altered by two large acquisitions in 2011.
In October private equity group
Advent International Corp. finalised its acquisition of Mondo
Minerals, which produces around 800,000 tpa talc, from
HgCapital for an undisclosed amount. Talc de Luzenac also
changed hands in 2011, acquired by France-based Imerys from Rio
Tinto for $340m, transferring to Imerys 15% of the worlds
talc production capacity it held before. The acquisition
complemented Imerys existing calcium carbonate and kaolin
supply to the paper, paint and plastics and technical ceramicc
Source: Ian Wilson, Independent
Wollastonite is used primarily in plastics and rubber products,
ceramics, metallurgical applications, paint and friction
products, and its uses vary depending on the length-to-width
ratio of fragments, otherwise known as the aspect ratio.
Ceramic applications use low aspect ratio (LAR) grades of 3:1
or 5:1 wollastonite, or powder grades, used for their chemical
composition, where its low coefficient of thermal expansion
reduces shrinkage, cracking and crazing.
The wollastonite industry is very
concentrated, with few large international players. Mining is
carried out by a small number of producers, which dominate
global trade in wollastonite. The leading producing countries
are China, which produced around 300,000 tonnes in 2011, and
India, where production increased slightly to 150,000 in 2011
from an estimated 145,000 tonnes in 2010. The US also remains
an important producer, accounting for approximately 12% of
India accounts for 22% of global
wollastonite production from two companies - Wolkem India Ltd
and Galaxy Corp. According to Wolkem, the wollastonite market
in India is growing at a rate of 10% per year, driven by the
ceramics, building material, friction and polymer industries.
Galaxy Corp. supplies Indias domestic ceramics markets,
with its products also used in paints and plastics. The company
produces approximately 10,000 tpa wollastonite from its mine in
Rajasthan, in Northern India.
exploration company Auzminerals considers the global
wollastonite market a relatively stable one, forecasting a
growth rate of 4-7% per year, driven specifically by increased
demand for wollastonite in India and South East Asia for
ceramics, friction products and plastics.
Asia is now the leading regional kaolin producer in the world
accounting for 28% of output in 2011 compared with 23% in 2007.
The main changes from 2007 to 2011 are a reduction in
production from the US and the UK and a re-assessment of
Chinese output. According to the USGS, kaolin output from the
US fell to 5.77m tonnes in 2011 from 7.11m tonnes in 2007, with
exports decreasing to 2.49m tonnes in 2011 from 3.3m tonnes in
2011 output for Chinese kaolin is
estimated at around 4m tonnes. A detailed market study
identified 3m tonnes production, including both hydrous and
calcined clay, of which the market split is dominated by
ceramics (39%), paper (23%), paint (18%), plastics (5%) and
China is now the leading producer
of paper, porcelain, sanitaryware and tiles in the world, with
kaolin consumption increasing significantly during the past
decade. Much attention has been paid in China to finding
suitable coating clay deposits as much of the higher-quality
kaolin is imported from Brazil and the US.
The trend of consolidation of the
major kaolin producing companies in recent years continued into
2012 with Imerys acquisition of Goonvean and KaMins
purchase of CADAM SA from Vale. The 15 major producing
companies operating in 1980 consolidated to 12 in 1990 and are
now down to just six. Imerys is the market leader with KaMin,
Thiele, Sibelco, AKW (Quartzwerke) and BASF being the other
KaMin, Thiele and Imerys have large
operations in Georgia, US, which is the worlds largest
producing area of kaolin. Brazil has risen rapidly in the past
30 years from having virtually no coating-clay production to an
overall capacity of 2.8m tonnes Imerys is the leader, providing
mostly the paper market, and the remainder is controlled by
Brazilian producer CADAM.
Source: Ian Wilson, Independent
Consultant, UK and Imerys.
Imerys buys Goonvean
The last independent UK kaolin producer disappeared in November
2012 as Imerys SA announced the acquisition of Goonveans
kaolin activities in Cornwall, giving the company access to
additional high-quality reserves for porcelain and other
ceramics, and platy clays for paper filler and other
Production of kaolin from south
west England is around 1m tpa, just one third of totals seen in
1988, a dramatic decrease due in part to the replacement of
kaolin as a filler by precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) and
ground calcium carbonate (GCC), and Imerys move to stop
its production of coated clays from Cornwall due to better
quality material available from its Brazilian operations.
In 2011, Goonvean dedicated a sales
manager exclusively to drive the speciality markets sector,
such as adhesives and coatings, a decision made partly due to
severe demand reductions for kaolin in the ceramics and
The Goonvean acquisition
strengthens Imerys reserves of speciality products mainly
in performance minerals and ceramics markets. It also further
improves the sustainability of Imerys operations in the region,
the company told IM. Production from Devon
will be controlled by Belgian producer Sibelco, while Imerys
will control kaolin production from Cornwall.
However, it is precisely for this reason that the Imerys
Goonvean merger has recently been thrown into question as in
April 2013, The Office of Fair Trading referred the acquisition
to the Competition Commission (CC) after an investigation
carried out by the organisation identified competition
concerns. The CC will decide whether or not the acquisition
will result in substantial lessening of competition in the
kaolin market, in sanitaryware or in specialty
The ceramics industry is the principal end use for the
industrial mineral zircon. Prized for its high refractive
index, zircon is added to glazes as an opacifier to give a
bright whiteness to ceramic products ranging from wall and
floor tiles to sanitaryware.
Zircon is also used in refractories
due to its heat resistance, but its relative cost sees it
mostly used in high-end ceramic products, imparting greater
mechanical strength, toughness and durability to ceramic bodies
and glass matrices.
World supply of zircon is led by
Australia (720,000 tonnes) and South Africa (380,000 tonnes),
which accounted for an estimated 78% of world production in
2011, according to the USGS. China is the only other large
producer, producing 100,000 tonnes in 2011.
Leading zircon producers are Iluka
Resources Ltd, which is based in Australia, Rio Tintos
Richard Bay Minerals operation in South Africa and
Tronoxs mineral sand facilities in both Australia and
South Africa. These producers collectively account for around
60-70% of total global zircon sand production.
Zircon sand also supports a huge processing industry, which
purchases the raw sand and processes it into grades that can be
used by various ceramic manufacturers and other end users. The
majority of zircon is processed into either flour (95%, passing
45 µm) or an opacifier (95%, passing 5 µm).