Feldspar is one of the most abundant minerals in the
Earths crust, forming more than 60% of terrestrial rocks.
According to United States Geological Survey (USGS) 2013
estimates, identified and hypothetical resources can amply meet
anticipated world demand.
Resources are large, although
not always conveniently accessible, Arnold Tanner, USGS
mineral commodity specialist, said, in the USGS Mineral
Commodity Summaries 2013.
Owing to its alumina and alkali
content, feldspar is mainly used in the ceramic and glass
These two end-use sectors are
linked to the housing and construction market, which have
suffered a strong downturn through the recent global economic
The crisis has consequently
affected feldspars global demand. However, while
remaining sluggish in Europe, demand is showing signs of
rebounding elsewhere, especially in Asia and Middle East.
Moreover, opportunities for
feldspars demand could arise from new markets, such as
electrical grade fibreglass (E-glass), which is a growing
sector worldwide, in particular in Asia, South East Asia and
Market research and consultancy
group, Global Industry Analysts Inc. (GIA), suggested that,
after suffering a global economic meltdown in 2008 and in 2009,
the feldspar market showed signs of recovery in 2010 and
A slow rebound in feldspar demand
from the main European consumers, including Italy, France and
Spain, is also expected to contribute to future growth.
According to the British Geological
Survey (BGS), Europe as a whole produces the most feldspar,
accounting for 57.3% of the worlds production.
Italy is the worlds largest
producer of feldspar according to the USGS and the BGS.
Italys output has been stable
at 4.7m tonnes during the last four years, according to the
USGS. The country is also a major consumer of feldspar, in
particular within the ceramic tile and sanitaryware
It is the largest importer in
Europe, with about 50% of total imports (see figure
1). After a fall in feldspar imports from 2m tonnes in
2008 to 1.5m tonnes in 2009, the market saw a rebound in 2011
with imports up to 1.9m tonnes.
At present we are supplying
the ceramics sector, both frits and enamel, and sanitaryware
producers, Sabrina Bozzola, human resources director at
Minerali Industriali, Italys largest producer, told
Bozzola explained that the current
production capacity at Suez Minerals plant is 45,000 tpa,
but it will reach 100,000 tpa by June 2014.
Turkey is the second largest
producer in the world, with production amounting to about 4.4m
tonnes in 2011.
Estimates from Roskill Information
Services suggest that production hit 7.5m tonnes in 2012.
Turkey is one of the largest
exporters of feldspar. In 2011 it exported 3.5m tonnes of
feldspar to mainly European markets.
Italy, Spain, Russian and
Poland were the most important markets for Turkish
feldspar, the Turkish Minister of Economy, Zafer
Caglayan, said in the Industry Mining Report 2013.
He added that total feldspar
reserves in Turkey could amount to 239m tonnes.
Turkey also exports feldspar to the
Middle East with exports of 115,000 tonnes to United Arab
Emirates (UAE), 80,000 tonnes to Saudi Arabia and 38,000 tonnes
to Syria in 2012, according to Roskill.
Frances feldspar production
amounted to 650,000 tonnes in 2012, according to USGS
estimates, which was flat compared to 2011.
The main feldspar producer is
Imerys. In France, Imerys feldspar production sites are
Feldspaths de Montebras, Feldspaths du Morvan, and Feldspaths
du Sud (Site de Lansac).
Imerys assets in North America are
now part of The Quartz Corp. following a joint venture with
Norway-based Norsk Mineral in 2011.
Feldspar production in Spain
amounted to 600,000 tonnes in 2012, according to the USGS, up
1.6% compared with 2011.
According to the Spanish Institute
of Geology and Mines (IGME), the majority of feldspar imports
come from Turkey (69%), Italy (25.6%), France (2.9%) and
Exports in 2011 amounted to almost
72,000 tonnes, and the major destinations were Brazil (29.2%),
Portugal (13.6%) and Turkey (13%).
IGME said that feldspar demand in
Spain increased in 2011 and it is still increasing, owing to
demand from the ceramics market.
Expectations [for volumes and
prices] in the next couple of years are steady or maybe
slightly improving, Pascual Castejon, general manager of
the Spanish potassic feldspar producer Euroarce, told
Euroarce produces about 175,000
tonnes of feldspar and supplies frits, glazes, sanitaryware,
tableware and glass to Spain as well as Italy, North Africa and
Salvador Torras, president of
Spain-based feldspar producer Minerals I Derivats, told
IM that feldspar demand in Spain had suffered
a free-fall decrease, but that it is presently stable and even
showing some signs of recovery.
Production versus other years
is recovering, thanks to export, he said.
Minerals I Derivats produces mixed
sodic-potassic feldspar for the ceramic industry, with an
annual production capacity of 3,000 tpa for the ceramic
domestic industry and exports to Europe and South America.
IGME estimates national reserves to
be about 40m tonnes, of which 37.5m tonnes are potassic
feldspar and 2.5m tonnes are sodic feldspar.
Poland and the Czech Republic are
the other large feldspar producers in Europe, with production
of 450m tonnes and 420m tonnes in 2012, respectively.
China is the worlds
third-largest feldspar producer, with production amounting to
2.2m in 2012, according to the USGS.
According to market consultancy
company Merchant Consulting Ltd, China is also a major feldspar
exporter in the world, with exports amounting to about 844,000
tonnes in 2011. However, imports are low, at 65,000 tonnes in
China supplies feldspar to its
domestic ceramics market, which is one of the largest in the
world, and it exports feldspar to other countries in Asia and
South East Asia, such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Data from the Department of Primary
Industry and Mines (DPI&M) of Thailand indicate feldspar
production amounting to over 1m tonnes, of which about 902,000
tonnes sodic feldspar and about 140,000 tonnes potassic
feldspar, in 2011.
According to DPI&M feldspar
production increased by 5.8%, up to 1.1m tonnes, in 2012.
However, while sodic production increased by 21% year-on-year
(y-o-y), potassic production plunged by 96%. In September 2013,
Thailand recorded a total production of over 1m tonnes of
feldspar, of which only 19,200 tonnes are potassic feldspar,
down by 16% y-o-y.
Thailand is also a main exporter of
feldspar in the Asia region, supplying Malaysia, Indonesia,
Vietnam, India and the Middle East.
India is the third-largest feldspar
producer in Asia. The Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) estimates
total production of 1.3m tonnes in 2013. In 2012 demand was
estimated to be 452,100 tonnes.
Feldspar production is mainly
located in the state of Rajasthan, with 63% of the total
production, followed by Andhra Pradesh with 30%.
The US is another major producer of
feldspar worldwide, with USGS estimated production amounting to
630,000 tonnes in 2012, down by 3% y-o-y, but up by 9.5%
compared with 2010.
Production in the US was at 650,000
tonnes in 2013. In 2012 demand was at 610,000 tonnes.
The main feldspar producer in the
US, The Quartz Corp firm, owns feldspar reserves in North
Carolina. Other producers are Pacer Minerals and Unimin
Canadian junior mining company,
I-Minerals, owns feldspar and feldspatic sand reserves in
Idaho. It hopes to produce 34,000 tpa by 2020.
Argentina and Brazil are the
largest feldspar producers in South America, with production in
2012 amounting to 200,000 tonnes and 115,000 tonnes,
respectively, according to the USGS.
The National Department of Mineral
Production (DNPM) estimates total feldspar resources in Brazil
at 316.6m tonnes.
In ceramics and in glass making,
feldspar is used as fluxing agent to reduce the melting
temperature of quartz and clays and to control the viscosity of
The main fluxing agents are the
potassium oxide (K2O) and sodium oxide
(Na2O), with sodic feldspar having a stronger
fluxing action than potassic feldspar.
In the ceramic tiles sector,
feldspar is the main component of the body composition, and it
is used to lower the temperature at which the ceramic body
Its content varies between 10% and
55% in tiles and between 50% and 60% in stoneware (gres
Its content varies between 30% and
50%, 25% and 35% in sanitaryware and 15% and 30% in whiteware
and chemical porcelain.
Other ceramic products containing
feldspar are enamels, frits and glazes. In glazes, potassic
feldspar is preferred to sodic as it dissolves silica more
readily and forms a more durable product.
In glass making, feldspar is also
used as stabiliser, owing to its alumina content, which
increases hardness, durability and resistance to chemical
corrosion. It is used both in the production of flat and
Feldspar also finds uses in fillers
for plastics, paints and rubber, owing to its good
dispersability, chemical inertness, stable pH and high
resistance to abrasion.
The USGS estimates that
approximately 70% of feldspar production is used in the glass
market and the remaining 30% in pottery and other uses.
According to GIA, ceramics
represent the largest and fastest growing end-use
segment, with the tile sector offering opportunities for
feldspar demand, especially in China, South East Asia, Spain,
and Latin America.
In Poland, ceramics has been the
driving sector for feldspar demand. According to the Mineral
and Energy Economy Research Institute of the Polish Academy of
Science, a surge in stoneware production between 2002 and 2007
pushed feldspar demand up to 900,000 tonnes, with the ceramic
tiles sector representing 80% of feldspar demand.
A 2013 study from the Export-Import
(EXIM) Bank of India put the global ceramic industry at a value
of $43.8bn in 2011.
Structural ceramics (tiles) was the
largest sector in terms of exports (50%) and imports (47.6%),
followed by industrial ceramics, tableware, sanitaryware and
According to the EXIM Bank of
India, the production of tiles worldwide amounted to 10.5bn
m2 in 2011, of which 72bn m2 from Asia,
1.2bn m2 from EU - including 27 countries - and 1bn
m2 from Central and South America.
China, which was the main
manufacturer of ceramic tiles, accounted for 46% of global
production. According to Roskill, the total production in the
Chinese ceramic tiles industry amounted to 9bn m2
tiles in 2011, and is expected to grow to 9.5bn m2
However, while Asia and
Central-South America recorded positive trends, with growth of
13.3% and 10.8%, respectively, y-o-y, the EUs trend was
negative, down by 2.1% y-o-y.
The downturn in the EU and US
ceramic sectors in 2009 was caused by the global economic
crisis and production is currently fluctuating because of
the slow rebound of the housing market from the economic
recession, some plant closures and increased imports,
Italy, one of the major producers
of tiles together with Spain and Turkey, has seen a slowdown in
the tiles industry during the last years.
Bozzola told IM
that demand is fluctuating, with expected production in 2013
amounting to about 350m m2, compared with about 370m
m2 in 2012.
There is a slight growth in
the tiles sector in Spain, with a slight increase in the
whiteware, up by 5%, Bozzola told
Thailand is also an important
market for the tiles industry. The Siam Cement Company (SCG) is
the second-largest ceramic producer after Abu Dhabi-based RAK
India is also a fast-growing market
in the tiles sector and is the worlds third-largest
manufacturer and consumer. Production is expected to grow by 7%
each year to 2015.
According to the EXIM Bank of
India, there is a high potential of growth for the industry,
looking at the current per capita consumption (PCC) of 0.5
m2, compared with 2 m2 PCC, in countries
like China, Brazil and Malaysia.
The Middle East region also
represents opportunities for growth of the tiles sector.
Irans production saw a steady
positive trend which persisted in 2012, with a total volume of
500m m2 of tiles and an increase of 5.3% y-o-y,
according to Ceramic World Review.
Projections from the EXIM Bank of
India estimate a global production of 13.1bn m2 in
2013, which will rise to 16.4bn m2 in 2015, and
18.3bn m2 in 2016.
Growth opportunities are also
present within the sanitaryware sector, which saw a global
production worldwide of 400m pieces in 2012, according to
China remained the worlds
largest producer, accounting for 44% of the global production,
followed by Europe (14%), South East Asia (12%), the Middle
East (10%), North America (10%) and South America (8%).
The US market is a major market of
sanitaryware worldwide, accounting for 18.4% of global imports
according to the EXIM Bank of India.
The global consultancy group,
Charles River Associates (CRA), suggests that sanitaryware was
one of the largest end-use sectors for potassic feldspar in the
US in 2012, with 107m tonnes of potassic feldspar, followed by
the tiles, fillers and glazes sectors, which both used 51m
tonnes of potassic feldspar.
However, CRA projections for the
year 2020 suggest a rise in the consumption of potassic
feldspar within the tiles, fillers and glazes sectors, with
quantities up to 70m tonnes and 57m tonnes respectively. The
sanitaryware sector is expected to increase potassic feldspar
consumption just over 107m tonnes (see figure 2).
Glass is another important
end-market of sodic and potassic feldspar. In fact, in the US,
feldspar demand has been gradually shifting from the ceramic to
the glass market during 2012 and 2013.
World glass production has steadily
increased from 112m tonnes in 2007 to 122m tonnes in 2012, with
an annual growth varying between 2% and 4%, according to a 2013
report by IS investment bank, Turkey.
According to the USGS, demand in
the US market, which accounts for the 29% of global demand,
slightly improved in 2012, particularly for automotive glass,
but flat glass demand for housing remained sluggish.
Flat glass demand and production
shrank in the EU countries, following the global economic
Bozzola told IM
that several plants suspended operations in many countries,
including Italy, the UK, the Netherlands and the Czech
Data from the National Association
of Glass Industries (Assovetro) showed that the Italian
container glass market shrank by 4.8% y-o-y in 2012.
It is possible to expect a
further slight downturn in 2013, due to a slight fall in food
consumption she told IM.
However, Turkish IS investment
bank's projections for flat glass demand expect growth of 4% in
the next few years. China is the country with the largest
demand, accounting for 50% of the global demand, followed by
Europe (16%), North America (8%) and South East Asia (7%).
According to the USGS, most
feldspar is consumed by the container glass sector. The
European Container Glass Federation (Feve) estimated global
sales volume about 60m tonnes.
The container glass industry is the
largest sector of the glass market, accounting for 45% of total
glass production, followed by flat glass (37%) and value-added
products, such as glassware and fibreglass, which accounted for
the 3% and 4%, respectively.
GIA indicates growth to 13.8m
tonnes by 2017.
However, feldspar and nepheline
syenite future demand might be lessened by the use of cullets
(recycled glass) in container glass.
According to GIA, cullets can
substitute feldspar in the glass making sector as they can
reduce melting points by up to 10oC. The recycling is only
limited to green cullets, which are used in the container glass
The use of alternative packaging
such as aluminium, plastic and paper could also reduce
consumption growth in the container glass market.
Commenting on glass recycling,
Bozzola explained to IM that cullets have
determined a strong downturn in the demand for raw material for
glass in recent years, particularly for coloured glass.
The percentage of cullets
used in the production of green glass amounts to 75%, she
Rio Pereira, from the DNPM in
Brazil, told IM that consumption of feldspar
in the glass industry has decreased due to the use of
substitute products such as alumina and increased
However, the Asian region still
offers growth opportunities in the container glass sector, with
Indias alcoholic beverage industry expected to grow in
double-digit rates, according to Hindusthan National Glass
& Industries Ltd., which is the largest container glass
provider in the country.
New markets and
The USGS suggests that new market
opportunities for feldspar could come from the fibreglass
sector and solar cells, at least within the US market.
Fibreglass consumption for thermal insulation is expected to
expand through 2013 and production of flat glass in the solar
cells is expected to increase.
Although potassic and sodic
feldspar could not find applications in the fibreglass market,
this represents an opportunity for calcium feldspar.
Owing to its light weight, high
strength and being less brittle and expensive than carbon
fibre, E-glass could be a valuable metal substitute in boats,
tanks, vessels, sport cars, wind turbines and printed
The E-glass market showed a steady
growth in production during the last ten years, with average
annual growth of 7.2% and an estimated global production of
about 5.3m tonnes. China (41.5%), Europe (16%) and North
America (14.9%) are the worlds largest producers.
According to James Tuer, president
of junior mining company Hudson Resources, calcium feldspar
could replace kaolin in the production of E-glass.
The rock, which contains up
to 32% of Al2O3 and 16% CaO, can be used
as a replacement to kaolin in providing alumina for
E-glass, Tuer told IM.
Moreover, calcium feldspar can
provide a portion of the required calcium content in
fibreglass, which is currently supplied by quicklime, Tuer
When you look at E-glass
standards, lithium, potassium, and sodium content, taken
together, cannot be higher than 1-2% in the final
product, Tuer explained to IM.
This is why the low sodium
content of our anorthosite works as a fibreglass feedstock
where others won't, he added.
According to Tuer, two other
potential markets for calcium feldspar are the production of
Al2O3 and the fillers market.
Tuer said that the global fillers
market is expected to grow from $20bn to $22.5bn by 2018.
According to the USGS, the feldspar
price in the US was about $62/tonne between 2008 and 2012, with
a spike up to $65/tonne in 2009. The price was estimated as
average value from marketable production.
CRA estimates indicate average
export prices for sodic and potassic feldspar to be between
$133/tonne and $178/tonne in the period from 2008 to 2011,
rising up to $336/tonne in 2012.
According to the CRA, average
import prices decreased from $358/tonne in 2008 to $279/tonne
in 2010, and rose again up to $331/tonne in 2011. Average
import price was $236/tonne in 2012.
Bozzola, told IM
that potassic feldspar is notoriously more expensive than sodic
CRA said that prices in the US in
2012 varied between $180-220/tonne for potassic feldspar (170
and 200 mesh) used in the sanitaryware sector; $175-240/tonne
for potassic feldspar (30, 100 and 200 mesh) used in tiles; and
$180-210/tonne for potassic feldspar (200 and 325 mesh) used in
fillers and glazes.
In Spain, feldspar average prices
fell from about 65.2/tonne ($90/tonne*) in 2008 to
36/tonne ($49.70/tonne) in 2012. Estimates were
calculated as a ratio of the total value and the total
production of feldspar, which were obtained from IGME data.
In India, data from the IBM show
average feldspar prices increasing from Indian rupee (Rs)
185.2/tonne ($2.90/tonne*) in 2009 to Rs 313.6/tonne ($5/tonne)
in 2012. In April 2013, the average price amounted to Rs
Export prices increased from Rs
2737.5/tonne ($43.80/tonne) in 2009 to Rs 3850/tonne
($61.60/tonne) in 2012.
Import prices decreased from Rs
13437.5/tonne ($215/tonne) in 2009 to Rs 4056.2 ($64.90/tonne)
in 2012. Prices were calculated as a ratio between the total
value and the total quantity of feldspar for the exports and
imports, respectively. Data were obtained from the IBM.
Calculations on data from the
DPI&M indicate a price for potassic feldspar of Thailand
Baht (B) 1698/tonne ($52.60/tonne) and B700/tonne
($21.70/tonne) for sodic feldspar in 2013. The prices for
potassic and sodic feldspar have remained constant in the last
four years, with price for potassic feldspar down by 10.6%
compared with 2008.
According to 2011 estimates from
the Spanish IGME, prices in Turkey amounted to $22-23/tonnes
FOB for sodic feldspar (20 mesh) and $70/tonne FOB for sodic
feldspar (glass grade, 20 mesh).
Finally, the average price for
feldspar in Brazil was about Brazilian Real (R$) 103/tonne
($44.30/tonne) in 2011, but the average export price amounted
to $295/tonne, according to the DNPM.
There is a general optimism about
the rebound of feldspar demand in the near future.
GIA expects growth in feldspar
future demand to be driven by countries in the Asia-Pacific
area, as well as the Middle East and Latin America, which
generate more than 33% of the revenues all together.
However, countries such as Italy
and Spain, which are among the worlds largest producers
of feldspar and ceramic tiles, will still play an important
part in the future demand.
Increased production of
ceramics, particularly in China and in some traditional
producers such as Italy and Spain, is currently presenting
large opportunities of growth, Susan Sutton,
editor-in-chief of the Ceramic Industry journal,
Salvador Torras, president of
Spains Minerals I Derivats, told IM that
global demand in ceramics has not really decreased in
these years, but moved from one region to another.
Within the EU countries, feldspar
demand is expected to grow in Spain, owing to a slight increase
in production of ceramic tiles.
In the EU, there is an
expected growth in sodic feldspar demand, while demand for
potassic feldspar is expected to be stable, Bozzola told
Bozzola also explained that
feldspar demand might suffer a slight downturn in the
production of green tiles, due to the use of glass as
substitute of feldspar in mixtures.
Commenting on the feldspar demand
within the glass industry, Bozzola said it is difficult to
estimate the impact of glass market fluctuations on feldspar
demand, at least in Italy, as the use of feldspar depends on
technical choices in production, which might not be affected by
Rui Pereira from the DNPM told
IM that feldspar could also be replaced in
several of its applications by agalmatolite, feldspar sand,
clay, blast furnace slag, phyllite, nepheline syenite, talc and
However, the market consulting
company Merchant Consulting Ltd forecasts world feldspar
production to grow continuously in the years ahead, hitting
25.6m tonnes in 2016.
*Conversions made December