Chinese barite (barytes) miner
Rocky Mountains has formed a joint venture with Hao Hua
Chemical Group, which could see it becoming the largest barite
supplier in China with an output of 500,000 tpa.
The announcement, which was made at
IMs Chinas Industrial Minerals and
Markets Roundtable (see pp8-9), which took place in
Shanghai this September, explained that the two companies would
form a new company, called Tianzhu Chemical Mining Corp.
Hao Hua Chemical Group will hold an
82% stake in the JV, with Rocky Mountains holding the remaining
At present, Rocky Mountains
controls the Tianyan barite deposit covering an area of
0.128km2 with Hao Hua Chemical Groups deposit
covering an area of around 3km2.
The Tianyan deposit of Rocky
Mountains currently produces 160,000 tpa while the Hao Hua
Chemical Groups deposit has not yet been mined.
The two mines will be merged under
the JV providing a total area of 3.22km2 for Tianzhu
Chemical Mining Corp. All mining will be carried out by Rocky
Reserves of barite
Approved government reserves for
the Tianyan deposit of Rocky Mountains is 1.62m tonnes barite.
For the 3km2 of the Hao Hua Chemical Group deposit,
reserves of 13.83m tonnes barite have been approved.
The 13.83m tonnes is contained
within 0.80km2 (25.8% of total deposit area) based
on exploration drilling. At subsequent stages of development
further exploration will be carried out on the remaining
It is estimated that further total
resources of barite will be 50m tonnes (including the current
approved reserves of 13.83m tonnes).
Together, the new joint venture
company holds 1.62m tonnes of approved reserves from Tianyan
and 13.83m tonnes from Hao Hua Group, making a total of 15.45m
The general location of the Tianzhu
barite deposit in Guizhou province, China, is shown in Fig.
1 along with the port of Zhanjiang in Guangdong province
where drilling-grade barite is exported.
In Tianzhu there is an area of 13 x
2.5km2, containing a significant stratiform barite
deposit. There are at present 14 operating mines with
production in the region of 800,000 tpa.
Xinji Chemical Co. (part of Hao Hua
Chemical Group) has two plants that manufacture barium
carbonate in China - one is near Tianzhu and the other one is
in Xinji (Hebei Province). To date, Xinji has relied on local
supplies in the Tianzhu area and current requirements are
200,000 tpa barite with plans to increase to 400,000 tpa.
Some barite is also sent to a Xinji
plant in Hebei and this will increase as the current source
from Ankang, Shanxi, is of lower quality. The most important
factor is that barite with low specific gravity (SG) and with a
minimum level of 85% barium sulphate can be utilised.
This means that all of the barite
mined at the deposit can be used - the higher SG will be sold
to the drilling-grade markets and the lower SG material will go
to the chemical-grade markets to manufacture barium
Barium carbonate is manufactured
from natural barium sulphate (barite) by reduction with petcoke
followed by precipitation with carbon dioxide (CO2).
Xinji Chemical Co. produces and sells inorganic raw materials
such as barium, sodium and strontium salts.
The company is also developing new
processes, material, and technology for inorganic products such
as barium salts and carries out technical consultation and
services in the barium salt business.
Future business will include the
production of high-purity barium titanate, high-purity
strontium titanate, and high-purity barium hydroxide.
Applications for the barium carbonate produced at the two
plants are in manufacturing electronic components such as
electronic ceramics, PTC thermistors and capacitors.
Future plans: from Rocky Mountains to Tianzhu
Rocky Mountains current
barite production level is 240,000 tpa, of which 200,000 tpa is
drilling grade. For the newly-formed Tianzhu Chemical Mining
Corp. the projected production levels (Table 1) will
see 500,000 tonnes split equally between drilling and chemical
The Tianzhu barite is stratiform in
nature with seams varying from 5-14 metres in thickness. The
seams are easy to mine by adits into the hillside and are
gently dipping often just 10 degrees (Fig.2).
During the period from 15 February
2011 to 19 September 2012 2,243 rail wagons representing
142,709 tonnes were delivered from the Tianzhu barite deposit
to the Zhanjiang port. The average tonnage of each wagon was
Specific gravity and percentage of
BaSO4 was measured on most of the 2,243 wagons with mercury
(Hg) and cadmium (Cd) testing on some of the wagons. The
average for the 142,709 tonnes BaSO4 was 91%, specific gravity
4.20, Hg 0.5 ppm and Cd 2.05 ppm.
Rocky Mountains utilises two plants
for storage and production of <200# barite powders at
Zhanjiang port and also in Tianzhu. The plant and storage
facility at Zhanjiang is the former factory of Yasheya
Refractories and is shared by Rocky Mountains and Steinbock
Minerals Ltd. The plant at Tianzhu is owned and controlled by
Rocky Mountains Co.
At Zhanjiang there are two Raymond
mills with capacity of 80,000 tpa (two-shift system) and so far
over 30,000 tpa of <200# barite has been produced in 2013.
There is a laboratory to test for chemistry and SG and close
contact is maintained with customers to ensure that testing is
carried out to international standards. Prior to shipment the
customer also arranges for detailed sampling and testing and
this is carried out by AH Knight (China). Shipments of bulk
material are regularly made and in February 2013 one vessel
with 73,000 tonnes of barite was shipped.
At Tinazhu there are two Raymond
mills based on a two-ship system; the capacity of the plant is
100,000 tpa for <200 barite.
An important customer for Rocky
Mountains is Steinbock Minerals Ltd, which ships the barite to
major customers such as MI-SWACO and others.
Other barite activity of Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains is carrying out
processing of barite by washing/jigging from four plants in
Zhijin, Shibing, Langmu and Zhaotong (Guizhou province).
The barite for the washing/jigging
plants is found in red soil and in farmers fields. The
original source of barite is from veins that were weathered
away and incorporated into the soil. This type of barite
occurrence is quite common in many areas and many jigging
plants are being established. The jigging method is based on
separation of heavier barite from lighter associated
Quality of barite often shows high
SG from 4.30-4.40 and low levels of cadmium and mercury.
Current production from the four jigging plants is 90,000
Production is currently at 12,000
tpa with barite having a low SG of 4.0-4.1 with high levels of
silica. This barite is blended with other grey barite of higher
SG and has low levels of mercury and cadmium.
This is an area with steeply
dipping veins of barite with just 1-2 metres width. At present
low SG and some separation is being considered to remove high
levels of quartz.
This mine is currently being
developed (Fig. 3) and jigging trials are being
carried out to separate barite (70% of deposit) and fluorspar
(30%). Currently, 2,000 tonnes per month is produced. Optical
sorting is being carried out to further separate out white
barite from the creamy fluorite.
Two samples of barite taken from
the hillside below the mine show low levels of fluorite with
high SG, low trace element levels, and good colour and
brightness. Further detailed investigations are continuing to
separate the fluorite from the barite.
*Rocky Wu is Chairman of Rocky
Mountains Industrial Developments Company, China
Ian Wilson is an Independent Consultant based in the