By Ian Wilson, UK Consultant
Global resources of magnesite are estimated at 13.1bn tonnes
with three countries, China, North Korea and Russia accounting
for 70% of this total. Macrocrystalline (sparry) type magnesite
accounts for 93% of resources, with 7% the microcrystalline
type. Global output of DBM, CCM and FM in 2012 is estimated at
11.1m tonnes, with China accounting for 51% and rest of the
The quality of products has been
enhanced for sparry-type magnesite by the introduction of a
flotation stage to remove silica. For cryptocrystalline
magnesite, mainly associated with serpentinite/peridotite,
hand-sorting followed by magnetting and optical sorting has
been successful in improving quality significantly.
The main activity has been among
the major players, such as RHI, Magnesita, Magnezit and
Kmaş, growing by acquisition, increasing capacity
and improving quality by additional processing. In the case of
Magnezit, new high-quality deposits are being developed
successfully in Russia.
Magnesite is magnesium carbonate
(MgCO3) and is found in many parts of the world
along with other magnesium bearing minerals such as brucite,
hydromagnesite and hunite, which are shown in Figure
Types of magnesite
Two main types of magnesite are
- Macrocrystalline (sparry
magnesite) often hosted in carbonate rocks
- Cryptocrystalline magnesite
hosted in ultramafic rocks such as peridotite-serpentinite
Another less common type is:
- Cyrptocrystalline magnesite,
formed in freshwater sediments.
Macrocrystalline (or sparry type)
magnesite consist of large crystals (up to several cms), while
cryptocrystalline magnesite consists of small crystals often of
<10 micron size.
Origin of different types of
Macrocrystalline (sparry) type
The sparry (macrocrystalline)
magnesite found in the Austrian Alps was formed by replacement
of limestone by magnesite with the source of the magnesium from
the overlying Permian evaporitic brines as seen in Figure
2. In other areas, magnesite can be found associated with
An example of this type is
RHIs Hochfilzen mine in Austria, visited during MagMin
Cryptocrystalline magnesite is
generally formed by the alteration of serpentinite (an
ultramafic olivine rock), which has been altered by migrating
fluids of H2O and CO2 and are present in
veins at depth and as a stockwork structure nearer to the
A good example of veins and
stockwork formation within serpentinite is from Kmaş
deposits in Turkey
Global resources of
A summary of global resources of
magnesite of 1.31bn is shown in Table 1.
Three countries, China, North Korea
and Russia, account for 70% of the global magnesite resources
with Slovakia (10%), Brazil (7%), Australia (5%) and others
Macrocrystalline (sparry) type
accounts for 93% of the worlds resources, with just 7%
for the cryptocrystalline magnesite. However, the quality of
the cryptocrystalline magnesite can be processed to a higher
Location of magnesite
The major deposits of the world
(shown as red stars representing resource >500m tonnes) and
some other deposits (in blue) are shown in Figure 3,
with deposits and some operating companies in Europe shown in
Comparison of different
types of magnesite and quality
A comparison of the properties and
quality of macrocrystalline and microcrystalline types are
shown in Table 2.
Dependent on various applications,
the market is supplied by:
- Macrocrystalline (sparry)
Low to medium application
(microcrystalline) natural magnesia
Low to high application
- Synthetic magnesia
Medium to high application
A summary of impurities in
synthetic and natural magnesia CCM grades is shown in
Figure 5. Clearly, the synthetic magnesia has higher
MgO and lower SiO2, Fe2O3 and
CaO than the natural magnesia grades (derived from
High-purity DBM is high MgO with
low amounts of impurities such as SiO2, CaO,
Fe2O3 and boron in order to avoid the
formation of minerals with low melting points. The high purity
DBM would have high bulk density (BD >3.40 gm/cc) with
periclase crystals of larger size (PC >150 microns).
DBM and EFM grades in shaped
- High-grade EFM (mainly from
- Low-grade EFM (some Chinese)
compete with synthetic DBM
- Double-fired sparry magnesia
compete with single-fired cryptocrystalline magnesia
- Some single-fired sparry
Global production of DBM, CCM and
The estimated global production of
DBM, CCM and FM in 2012 is shown in Table 3 with a
summary in Table 4.
A split of DBM by country indicates
that China (51%) and Russia (16%) account for just over
two-thirds of output (see Figure 7).
Output of CCM in 2012 was 3.26m
tonnes, of which China accounts for 46%.
For fused magnesia (FM), the
output/capacity for 2012 was 973,000 tonnes, of which China
accounted for 72%. Magnezit is the second-largest producer,
with 14% of the output as shown in Table 5.
Current situation with various countries
Production of magnesia from
North Korea in 2011 was reported as 255,000 tonnes, with CCM
(67%), CCM (23%) and FM (10%). Production was estimated to have
decreased in 2012 by around 30% to 178,000 tonnes. Of this
amount, 100,000 tonnes were exported with CCM (60%), DBM (25%)
and FM (15%). Difficulties in the supply of coal and coke and
transportation were the main reasons for this
However, some capacity figures
for North Korea were received from the Korea Magnesia Clinker
Industry Group (KMCIG), which controls most of the mines and
plants. These details are shown in Table 6 and represent
maximum production capacity based on being operational 300
day/year. The total production capacity is almost 800,000 tpa.
However, the difficulties of availability of energy for
calcinations and transportation problems will make it difficult
to attain this at the present time. In the past, of course,
more than 1m tonnes of magnesia has been produced from North
Korea until sanctions on heavy oil and trade sanctions reduced
Location of the magnesite deposits
and magnesia plants in North Korea are shown in Figure
There is one operating company not
controlled by KMCIG, Kommag, which is a Chinese investment
based on the Namgye magnesite deposit. At present, some CCM is
produced in small amounts. The Namye deposit covers and area of
48 hectares and is currently mined underground for talc and
chlorite. The host rock magnesite shows good quality from +15
metres to -90 metres depth.
Brazil has large resources of
magnesite (830m tonnes) and three companies producing magnesia
products, as shown in Table 8.
The largest producer is Magnesita
SA, located in Brumado, with 830m tonnes of resources and with
other deposits elsewhere. There are two sintering plants at
Catiboaba and Pedra Preta and there are two main grades of DBM
(M-10 and M-30).
The M-30 grade is higher quality as
the magnesite ore undergoes a flotation stage to remove to
remove silica (SiO2) and also removes some iron and
manganese. The M-10 normal grade contains >94% MgO, but with
flotation the M-30 grade % MgO is >98. With flotation the
M-30 grade shows a higher bulk density of >3.30 than the
M-10 grade at >2.98.
Ibars main operation is in
Brumado and a view of the mine is shown in Figure 9
with the plant shown in Figure 10.
A third rotary kiln was
commissioned in July 2013, and this capacity is included in the
production figures. The CCM is mainly for animal feed and
fertilisers and some other uses.
The Brazilian-based Magnesium do
Brasil, owned by the Franck family, sold 50% of its shares to
the Roullier Group in 2012. The two companies have been
commercial partners for several years. Located in the northeast
of Brazil, there is direct access to two ports allowing easy
export to major international markets. Roullier Group holds a
strong presence in several agro-chemical and industrial
activities. The subsidiary TIMAB, brings a strong international
sales network, logistical efficiency and complementary global
sourcing capabilities, together with strong R&D
The deposits of Magnesium do Brasil
are located near to Ibar Nordeste SA, which also has a mine in
the same area.
The main producing mine of
Magnesium do Brasil is Torto, with the plant located nearby.
Production capacity is currently 80,000 tpa of CCM.
Russia - Magnezit Group
There are two main areas of
activity in Russia with the established mines and plant at
Satka (Chelyabinsk Region) in the Urals and more recent
activity from the high-quality magnesite deposits in the
Krasnoyarsk Territory. Here, the deposits and plant are
situated at Razdolinsk. A location map of the Satka and
Krasnoyarsk operations are shown in Figure 8 along
with two other magnesite deposits. The chemistry of the
high-quality Krasnoyarsk is also shown with high %MgO and low
levels of SiO2, CaO and Fe2O3,
which are ideal for CCM, DBM and FM.
Magnezit has embarked on a
programme of new capacity, which started in 2011 with an
additional 235,000 tonnes, and will increase to an additional
650,000 tonnes in 2015. There will be an extra 400,000 tonnes
from Satka and 250,000 tonnes from Krasnoyarsk in 2015. The
split of the additional 650,000 tonnes will be 300,000 tonnes
(CCM), 150,000 tonnes (DBM) and 200,000 tonnes (FM). A summary
of these capacity increases from 2011-2015 is shown in
Magnezit Group commissioned the new
shaft kiln from Polysius AG (Germany) in July 2013 with annual
production capacity of 80,000 tonnes at the Satka plant
China, with 26% of the worlds
magnesite resources, also accounts for 51% of the global
production of 11.1m tonnes with 5.7m tonnes (see Table
9). Of this 5.7m tonnes production from China in 2012, the
split between grades is DBM (62%), CCM (26%) and FM (12%). For
DBM, China accounts for 51% of global production, 46% CCM and
However, Asian Metal
reports Chinese production for 2012 as 8.67m tonnes almost 3.0m
tonnes more than the estimated 5.7m tonnes. Taking the
Asian Metal production figures for China of 8.67m
tonnes, this represents 62% of global output as shown in
Output of magnesite from 1996 to
2011 and projection to 2015 is shown in Figure 11 and
gives an estimated growth of 1.3% per annum in the five-year
plan. The period from 2006-2010 showed a negative growth of
At the current time, many of the
major magnesite companies in Liaoning Province are considering
introducing a flotation stage to remove silica and hence
increase the quality of their magnesia products. RHI Jinding
successfully invested in a flotation plant at RHI Jinding,
Dashiqiao, to give high-quality magnesia products of 98% MgO
and high bulk density of 3.4.
While most of the magnesite in
China is the sparry type, there is a high-purity
cryptocrystalline magnesite being developed by the Huayin Group
based on the Kamaudo deposit in Tibet. Resources are reported
as 120m tonnes and some trials have been carried out in
Haicheng. The quality of the magnesite is reported as MgO
(48.47%), SiO2 (0.08%), CaO (0.55%),
Al2O3 (0.02%) and LOI (50.74%). A
high-quality FM with MgO (99.9%), Fe2O3
(<0.001%), SiO2 (<0.001%) and CaO (<0.05%)
suitable for PDP (plasma display panel) has been produced in a
LPG high-temperature shaft kiln trial.
It is reported that Qinghai Western
Magnesium Co Ltd will develop the Bischofite (MgCl2.
6H2O) present in the Tuanjie salt lake in Qinghai,
western China. With resources of 60m tonnes, the aim is to
produce high-pure magnesium hydroxide and high-pure magnesium
Turkey is increasing its output of
magnesia based on microcrystalline magnesite derived mainly
from altered peridotite/serpentinite.
Kmaş is the largest
producer in Turkey and was acquired by lker and
Grmen Groups in June 2012. The same management team is
still working with the company following the acquisition.
Kmaş carried out a
detail re-assessment of its resources and reserves in early
2012 and figures reported are shown in Table 11.
The mining programme for 2013 shows
a significant increase in 2013 compared with 2012.
Mining of stockwork structures
represents an important source of magnesite. In the Ballick
Region (North Side), the processing of 100 tonnes of magnesite
mined will realise 22.4 tonnes feed to the calciner. The
process from mining involves hand-picking, crushing and
magnetic separation at the mining site with further processing
at the Kutahaya plant involving further crushing, drying
magnetic separation and optical sorting.
The increased capacity for
DBM-CCM-DBD at Kutahaya capacity represents the new rotary
80,000 tpa kiln, giving three rotary kilns now in operation.
The Bommag plant for CCM will act as a feed for EFM and
briquetting for DBM.
TurkMag (Trabzon, Cihan Group), Aşkale,
A new plant of 100,000 tpa was
commissioned in late 2011. The deposits are based on magnesite
found associated with serpentinite. Hand-picking on conveyors
to remove some of the greenish serpentine from whitish
magnesite takes place after crushing at the mine site.
In August 2013, RHI announced plans
to acquire the TurkMag project in Erzurum; a final agreement on
the sale was pending at the time of writing.
MAGNA - Magnesitas
Nicolas Gangutia, MAGNA general
manager, reports that the Borobia and Zibeti deposits are
planned to open in the first quarter 2014. The reserves at
Borobia are 50m tonnes and 7m tonnes at Zibeti.
MGR - Magnesitas de
Eduardo Jimenez Aguirre, MGR
general manager, reports that current mine Impensada has
reserves of 12m tonnes, and just 1.5 kms to the east is the
Santalla deposit, which has potential reserves of more than 10m
tonnes. At present, 200,000 tpa is mined underground with
production of 70,000 tpa of CCM. Markets are 75% for
agriculture, 20% fertiliser and 5% others. Some 80% of output
is exported, with main markets in the UK, France, Germany,
Belgium and Ireland.
Causmag has capacity of 18,000 tpa,
of which 70% is used for animal health and the balance in
various industrial applications. Aditya Jhunjhunwala, Causmag
managing director, reports that present output is 9-10,000 tpa
and is expected to increase to full capacity within 1-2 years.
Its main activity is the sale of Mg0 to the animal health
industry for the prevention of grass tetany in dairy cattle - a
serious often fatal disorder characterised by low levels of
magnesium in the blood serum of cattle.
Tasmania Magnesite is a subsidiary
of Beacon Hill Resources Plc. Alan Daly, general manager,
reports that 2013 had seen a slow down compared with last year,
although land tenure issues in the Tarkine region affecting a
number of mining companies were mostly resolved. New
metallurgical testing is proposed and the company expects to
complete testing of a bulk sample by end-2013.
The Huandot deposit south of Darwin
is now owned by Thessally Resources Ltd and Lorry Hughes,
managing director, reports that the company will be renamed
Australian Magnesia Pty Ltd. Exploration was carried out by BHP
Billiton in 1969 and advanced by Magnesium International in
2004 with a focus on Mg metal. The new company will concentrate
on high-grade raw magnesite and high-quality CCM. A small area
assessed to 50 metres depth shows a resource of 5.2m tonnes.
Further exploration of the resource is planned. In the past, a
25,000 tonnes stockpile was mined.
Thanks to all companies for providing information for this
article. Particular thanks go to Hseyin Grcan
(general manager), Nafiz Ozdemir (marketing) and Halil
Kse (mining) of Kmaş, Turkey; Hermano Franck
(CEO, Magnesium do Brasil); Alex Menezes (corporate manager,
Magnesita SA); Emilio Lobata, (commercial director, Ibar
Nordeste); Nicolas Gangutia (general manager, MAGNA); Eduardo
Jimenez Aguirre (general manager, MGR); Aditya Jhunjhunwala
(managing director, Causmag International); Alan Daly (general
manager, Tasmania Magnesite); Lorry Hughes (managing director,
Thessally Resources); Carrie Shi (Asian Metal);
Professor Wen Lu (Chengdu, China); RHI; Chinese companies, and
many others. Thanks also to Theofilos Zampetakis (Grecian