What a difference a year makes. In
the last 12 months, the fluorspar industry has seen a project
mothballed, exports from China stutter and some new projects
China remains the largest producer
of fluorspar, with an output of 3.7m tonnes in 2013, according
to IM Data. Mexichem Fluor SA de CV,
meanwhile, is pipped to have an output of 630,000 tonnes this
year, with Mongolian and Russian JV Mongolrostsvetmet following
closely behind (see pie chart).
In terms of new projects, this year
has seen British Fluorspars Peak District mine start
production in March.
British Fluorspar is owned by
Italys Fluorsid Group, that bought former Glebe Mines
assets, as it was then known.
Glebe was put on care and
maintenance in November 2010 and its assets bought, by
competitive tender, on 17 May 2012 after the operation was put
British Fluorspar restarted
production at the Glebe mines site in April this year, Lorenzo
Di Donato, managing director, told IM.
The company is targeting production
at 65,000 tpa. It sent its first shipment in May 2013.
Operations at the companys
Cavendish Mill site could increase, but it says it is happy
with the size of the operation as it stands.
The area has good potential
to increase, but to be honest we think this size is optimum. We
think this is the most efficient size for us. We do not want to
increase production if that would not improve the efficiency of
this mine, Di Donato said.
The nice coincidence is that
we took over the assets on 17 May 2012 and then exactly a year
later, on 17 May 2013, the first vessel of 5,000 tonnes reached
Cagliari gliari port, Di Donato said.
Belonging to a fluorochemical
group, the company is less exposed to market movements in
fluorspar prices. Besides, it is a medium-size operation with a
very functional location to serve the European market, Di
As we stated in the latest
[IM] Fluorspar conference in Vancouver, our
company has a dual strategy in the sense that we act as both a
standalone company and represent a partial backward vertical
integration for Fluorsid Group Di Donato highlighted,
adding: Although we are certainly not the cheapest source
of fluorspar in the world, we are competitive enough to sell to
our parent company and to other HF producers. We believe this
is the most promising set-up for our groups
The European market is a net
importer [of fluorspar] and it is a critical raw material in
[the UK] and in Europe, and so there is no reason why the
market cannot welcome more quantities, he continued.
Our view, and that of the
industry, is that in China the trend of decreasing exports will
persist compared to some years ago. Going forward, this
translates into a future lack of low impurity
product. Hence, we are convinced that our real driver of
success will stand in our ability to meet the needs of the
market in terms of reliability and quality of both products and
services, which we are confident to be able to deliver,
Tertiary Minerals is working hard
to bring three projects to market. Two of the projects,
Storuman and Lassedalen, are in Europe. Storuman, in Sweden, is
further advanced than Lassedalen, Norway, and is targeting
future production of at least 100,000 tpa acidspar.
In March 2011 the maiden JORC
compliant mineral resource was estimated for Storuman (see
Storuman is located in an area with
well-established infrastructure, Tertiary said.
It is located adjacent to a sealed
highway and 25km from the regional town of Storuman, which is
connected by rail and a sealed highway to the city and port of
Ume on the Gulf of Bothnia. The sealed highway continues
in the opposite direction to the ice-free port town of
Mo-I-Rana in Norway. There are also sealed highway routes to
the major regional port of Skellefte. Each of these three
named ports is roughly 250km from the project site.
The company has not advanced
Lassedalen at the same pace. Tertiary holds exploration permits
in Norway, but is working to develop Storuman first, Richard
Clemmey, operations director, told IM.
Since the scoping study we
have not made a great deal of progress. We have to prioritise.
Sweden is more advanced. Norway is a very different deposit as
it is higher grade, but it is smaller. It is underground and
would require more drilling, he explained.
We still say Norway is
important, but in terms of prioritising projects, Sweden is the
highest priority, he affirmed.
Last year the company secured a
third project - the MB Fluorspar deposit in Nevada, US. Here
the company recently received approval to drill by the US
Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The drilling contract has been
awarded to Boart Longyear.
We have three aims with this
project, Clemmey told IM: We want
to drill an area which will give an initial 10-year mine life;
we know there is a higher grade zone within the mineralisation,
so we want to target that and, finally, there is an area which
shows sign of having fluorspar at surface, so we want to look
Clemmey also highlighted the good
logistics of the project, underlining that while Tertiary is
targeting European and US markets with its three projects, it
could, in the future, export from MB to China.
The MB Project claims are located
19km southwest of the town of Eureka in central Nevada. Eureka
is on US Highway 50.
Look at the great logistics:
We have a rail link all the way to San Francisco, we do think
we are in a good position to be competitive, explained
This is an area which has
historical (non-JORC) data attached to it as it was first
explored in the 1960s by Union Carbide for beryllium. Since
then it has been explored Ñ for different commodities
Ñ by a number of different companies, including Asarco,
Bear Creek Mining, US Borax, Amselco, Arimetco and Homes take.
A total of 108 drill holes have been completed.
Despite falling fluorspar prices
and a depressed market, junior developer Prima Fluorspar
remains upbeat about opportunities for industrial minerals
At the end of the day the
world needs fluorspar. Theres not a single commercial
mine in Canada or the US in production, CEO Robert Bick
told IM. We are confident we are sitting
on a significant resource.
The company is developing the Liard
Project in northern British Colombia (BC) with an historic
geological resource estimate (non NI 43-101) of 3.2m tonnes
averaging 32% CaF2. Also, developing a resource in
Canada, but in St Lawrence Newfoundland, is Canada Fluorspar.
The company said in its prefeasibility study that it expects to
produce 131,000 tpa fluorspar (see below).
Theres always room for
good fluorspar projects, Bick said. In addition,
the fluorspar market is shifting with China to become a net
importer in the foreseeable future
Bick describes why investors are
intrigued by fluorspar. He sees a positive space for industrial
What we are hearing is that
people are looking for a commodity thats used every day
and for which there is a market. That gives shareholders
comfort, he explained.
Canada Fluorspar is developing the
Newspar project in St Lawrence, Canada, jointly with US
fluorochemicals producer, Arkema.
The company initially said it would
be online at the end of this year, following its first
feasibility study. But it undertook a second study at the end
of 2012, which upped the capex and opex, but also increased the
size of the resource.
By July 2013, the company had
released a number of drilling results from its phase two and
three drilling programmes on the southern extension of the
Director Vein and Grebes Nest Vein on assets owned 100% by CFI.
The drilling campaign follows on from its prefeasibility study,
which was released in February this year.
If we come out of the current
review process with our partner, Arkema, positively then
its a two year build to be in full construction,
Lindsay Gorrill, CEO, told IM.
We are doing two other veins
which have returned very high grade ore, he
Other companies have spoken highly
of the model that Canada Fluorspar has, in terms of the JV with
I think Canada Fluorspar is
in a really good position, Tertiarys Clemmey told
People ask me about their
structure and I think its a great one. To actually pull
that deal together is quite something, he added.
There is a third company which is
looking to exploit Canadian reserves of fluorspar. Freeport
Resources is a junior developing The Q project, in
near Prince George, BC, which also contains molybdenum, niobium
and rare earths as well as fluorspar.
The company so far has remained
below the radar and has not submitted any new information since
the IM Fluorspar Conference in October 2012.
It is marketed principally as a molybdenite resource, with
fluorite as a byproduct.
There is a historical
(non-NI-43-101) reserve estimate of 24m tonnes averaging 11.5%
CaF2 including 1.8m tonnes of 15% ore, which was
calculated in 1984
Sephaku Fluoride Ltd
Sephaku Fluoride is developing a
vertically integrated fluorspar mine and beneficiation project
in South Africa. The project is unique in that it is developing
more than one fluorspar deposit as well as a downstream
The deposits are at varying stages
of development. SepFluors Nokeng mining project, the
closest to production, will have its own concentrator and will
supply CAF2 , primarily as feedstock, for the
companys planned fluorochemical plant Ñ currently
in construction Ñ for the production of hydrogen
fluoride (HF), aluminium tri-fluoride (AlF3) and
The Nokeng mining project, where
the company has identified three high-quality adjacent
haematite-fluorspar deposits, is located in South Africas
Gauteng province, 80km north of Pretoria, the countrys
This year, the company experienced
some delays in developing Nokeng, due to a negative Record of
Decision in regard to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)
application, said CEO Alan Smith in a letter to shareholders in
March. This was appealed by SepFluor, and eventually
The company also submitted a
further set of metallurgical recovery assessments after its
Competent Person was reluctant to accept the companys
anticipated metallurgical recovery rate, he added.
The company was confident
that the recoveries it had advanced were correct, and so
initiated a further set of metallurgical assessments at MINTEC
to ensure that the reservations expressed by the Competent
Person could be addressed, Smith continued. These
tests were completed successfully and [the Competent Person]
has now accepted the higher recoveries advanced by
SepFluor, he added.
Because the company wanted to have
the correct information before going to market, funding was
Within Nokeng, the Plattekop
deposit has 2.8m tonnes of measured mineral resource, at a
grade of 42.2% CaF2, while at the Outwash Fan
deposit, the company estimates a measured mineral resource of
8.2m tonnes, at a grade of 24.6% CaF2. A third
deposit, called Wiltin, is being explored.
Planned run of mine production from
Nokeng, at a low stripping ratio, is 600,000 tpa, while
estimated operating costs in the first few years are low, at
A second project, Wallmansthal, is
not as far advanced as Nokeng. The project holds around 5m
tonnes of mineralised material to a depth of 70 metres with a
grade estimate of around 47% CaF2.
Although this is not a compliant
estimate (NI 43-101/SAMREC/JORC), the deposit has some
historical exploration information available. For example, 11
holes were drilled at the site by General Mining Corporation
(now BHP Billiton) in the 1960s.
An exploration campaign made up of
14 drill holes is now underway at the property. Two holes were
located to test the veracity of the historical data for use in
creating a compliant resource statement, while a third hole was
drilled to test the depth extension of the deposit below 70
metres. This work was eventually stopped at 180 metres depth
due to the limits of the drilling equipment used.
However, while the above projects
are gaining traction, or are in different stages of
development, the same cannot be said for all projects.
British fluorspar miner Fluormin
Plc placed the Witkop mine on care and
maintenance in October, citing weakness in the fluorspar
Recommencement of operations
will be contemplated when the fluorspar industry enters into a
more favourable price environment, Mark Bolton, company
CEO, said at the time.
The prevailing price for acid
grade fluorspar has fallen below current operating costs,
the company outlined in a release to the London Stock Exchange
However, it would not get the
chance to reopen the mine. On 17 May 2013 Fluormin was sold to
Vanoil Energy, a Canadian oil and gas company, after it
launched a share for share offer worth £14.3m
So far it is unclear what Vanoil intendS to do with
Fluormins Witkop asset. The company was contacted by
IM, but declined to comment.
IM speaks to Thomas Dahlke, Process Engineer at BUSS
ChemTech AG about the benefication system. BUSS ChemTech are
responsible for the design of the Gulf Fluor 50,000 tpa
hydrofluoric (HF) plant in Abu Dhabi, which is expected to be
producing by the end of this year. The plant is connected to
60,000 tpa alumium fluoride.
How is the project
The plant is well under
construction and start up is expected by the end of this year,
or at the beginning of next year; this is the largest single
line plant worldwide. This size has never been built
How long does it take to
set up a plant?
The engineering from the beginning
to start up takes about 24 months.
Do you think companies now
need to be vertically integrated?
The answer is two sided when you
speak about other materials such as fluorosilicic acid. There
you are bound to the phosphoric acid plant location as it
wouldnt be economical to ship fluorosilicic acid around
the world to a production site.
In comparison, with a fluorspar
plant you can probably build it close to an aluminium smelter
or close to any downstream plant. What we have seen is a
growing interest in the industry of all the downstream fluorine
products. These producers seek cooperation agreements with
phosphoric acid producers for their HF supply.
Regarding fluorspar, there is
interest in HF plants producing from fluorspar, worldwide.
Where have you seen
There is a lot of interest in
fluorosilicic acid. There are projects worldwide who we have to
actually have to do the initial planning and calculations. So
we are at that preplanning phase, the first phase.