New JV forms largest barite company in China

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Published: Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A joint venture named Tianzhu Chemical Mining Corp. has been formed between Hao Hua Chemical Group (82%) and Rocky Mountains Industrial Development Company (18%) to mine barite for chemical and drilling-grade markets in the Tianzhu area of Guizhou, China. Rocky Wu and Ian Wilson*

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 IM’s China’s 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 18%.

At present, Rocky Mountains controls the Tianyan barite deposit covering an area of 0.128km2 with Hao Hua Chemical Group’s deposit covering an area of around 3km2.

The Tianyan deposit of Rocky Mountains currently produces 160,000 tpa while the Hao Hua Chemical Group’s 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 Mountains.

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 area.

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 tonnes.



Location

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 carbonate.

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 grades.

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 63.6 tonnes.

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

Jigging plants

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 limestone.

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 tpa.



Other deposits

Sanjiang barite, Guizhou

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.

Yunnan barite, Hunan

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.

Shanya barite-fluorite mine, Guizhou

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 UK