The ceramics industry is seeing
growth in developing countries where large increases in urban
population and floor space mean that an increase in consumption
of industrial minerals such as kaolin, zircon and feldspar are
expected over the next decade.
According to figures from McKinsey
Global Institute, urban areas are forecast to add an additional
85% of current total floor space, or an increase of more than
80,000km2, between 2010 and 2025. The majority of
this growth is expected in developing economies such as China,
India and Latin America.
Improvements in the construction
sector and a booming hotel industry have also driven both
consumption and production of ceramics up in the Middle East.
These developing regions tend to favour tiles as a floor
covering, for example in China around 75% of floor coverings
are tiles, followed by Asia Pacific with just over 50%.
According to leading zircon
producer Iluka, urbanisation is likely to remain a key driver
of tile demand and ceramic minerals. Figures from Ceramic World
Review indicate that the top 10 tile consuming regions in 2011
were countries that saw the largest growth in urban
In 2011, Brazil saw tile
consumption go up by 45%, China by 50% and India by almost 60%.
The largest changes in tile consumption were seen in Iran,
Vietnam, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia; all experiencing increases
of between 65 and 80%.
Urbanisation is expected to
be a key driver of tile, and hence, zircon demand. Higher urban
living standards are linked to increased use of floor coverings
in general, of which tiles are expected to form a large
proportion, Iluka said.
Other influencing factors for
regional popularity of tiles include a cultural preference, for
example the Middle East has historically favoured tile use, and
choice of tiles for sanitary and cleaning purposes in warmer
regions. The comparative cost and availability of tiles
compared with other floor coverings has also been an
Traditionally, Europe has been the
largest tile producing region with production taking place in
Spain and Italy, although China has in recent years surpassed
Europe, reflecting changes in consumption.
According to Roskill,
China remains the largest sanitaryware producing country,
accounting for 44% of production in 2012.
Of the 400m pieces produced, Europe
accounted for 14% of production, South East Asia for 12%, North
America for 10%, and the growing Middle East and North African
region for 10%. South America accounted for 8% of global
production in 2012.
Middle Eastern ceramic market
The Middle East represents a huge
opportunity for ceramic mineral suppliers, particularly the
whiteware ceramics industry, which includes tiles, sanitaryware
and tableware, as the ceramics industry is growing in this
Iran is the leading tile producing
country in the Middle East, with the Ceramic World Review
estimating that of the 11.2bn m2 tiles produced
globally in 2012, Iran accounted for 500m m2. This
represents a 5.3% increase over 2011 production and put the
country 4th in terms of global production.
The second largest producing
country in 2012 in the Middle East was Turkey, the
9th largest producer worldwide, with 280m
m2 produced, a 7.7% increase over 2011. This was
followed by the UAE with 92m m2 and Saudi Arabia,
which saw the biggest percentage increase year-on-year of 9%,
with 85m m2 produced in 2012.
Despite the growth experienced by
Saudi Arabia, the country is still the leading tile importer
globally. Figures from Ceramic World Review, Roskill
and the Saudi Ceramics Company, indicate that domestic
production in Saudi Arabia represented just 45% of the tile
market share in 2012. An additional 35% was imported from
China, 13% from Spain and 7% from other countries.
According to Roskill, the
rising consumption in the Middle East has been driven by an
expanding hotel industry. Recovery in the construction sector
has also led to an increase in consumption, with the Middle
East and North Africa accounting for 10% of consumption
globally. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in particular have accounted
for this trend as both countries focus on the building of
In response, regional tile
production has increased over the past five years, resulting in
the establishment of some of the worlds largest
sanitaryware producers in the Middle East and North Africa,
compared with just two small producers 20 years ago.
The region is also experiencing a
move from stoneware to porcelain as the gap in middle ground
prices has closed, though higher quality porcelain remains more
Kaolin and ceramic clays
Kaolin has a variety of properties
such as natural whiteness, fine particle size, non-abrasiveness
and chemical stability, which lends itself for use in a variety
of ceramic applications such as tableware, sanitaryware,
electrical porcelain, tiles, glazes, insulators and
In whiteware applications, kaolin
helps with accurate control of moulding properties while adding
fry and fired strength, as well as stability and a smooth
surface finish. Its chemical inertness makes kaolin
particularly suited as a porcelain electrical insulator.
Based on figures from
Roskills 2013 kaolin report, global kaolin
processing capacity for the last year was estimated at around
27m tonnes. In terms of regional production capacity, North
America accounted for 40% of capacity, followed by Europe with
23% and Asia with 18%.
However, since the consolidation
trend in the kaolin market, production from the US and UK has
fallen from 2007 with Asia now the leading kaolin producer in
the world. Chinese output for kaolin in 2011 is estimated at
around 4m tonnes. A detailed market study identified 3m tonnes
production, including both hydrous and calcined clay, of which
the market split was dominated by ceramics (39%), paper (23%),
paint (18%), plastics (5%) and others (15%).
USGS figures indicate that kaolin
production from the US in 2012 amounted to 5.9m tonnes,
Uzbekistan produced 5.5m tonnes, Germany 4.5m tonnes, Czech
Republic 3.6m tonnes, Brazil 2.25m tonnes, with 8.3m tonnes
produced by other countries including China.
Industry figures also reflect the
growing tile industry in the Middle East, with kaolin
production increasing from just over 1.5m tonnes in 2005, to
around 2.4m tonnes in 2012. Iran led production with 1.5m
tonnes, followed by Turkey and Jordan.
Of the 27.5m tonnes of clay bought
or sold in the US in 2012, end market uses varied between clay
type. In ball clays, 38% were used for floor and wall tiles,
20% in sanitaryware and 42% for other uses, while 50% of kaolin
produced was used in the paper industry and 50% other end
Consumption of kaolin is led by
Asia, accounting for 36% of demand, Europe for 30% and North
America for 24% in 2012, according to Roskill figures.
The largest proportion of kaolin production is consumed by the
paper industry, though the mineral also plays a role in other
filler applications such as paint and plastics.
However, although paper is expected
to remain the primary end use for kaolin, its share of the
market is declining as it is replaced by other fillers,
particularly ground and precipitated calcium carbonate.
Roskill forecasts that by 2017, 36% of kaolin produced
will be used in paper production, down from 39% in 2012, while
its use in ceramics is expected to increase from 29% to 31% by
China clay producers
Imerys SA is the market leader in
the production of kaolin with KaMin, Thiele, Sibelco, AKW
(Quartzwerke) and BASF being the others. The last independent
UK kaolin producer disappeared in November 2012 as Imerys
announced the acquisition of Goonveans kaolin activities
in Cornwall. This gave the company access to additional
high-quality reserves for porcelain and other ceramics and
platy clays for paper filler and other markets.
Soon after the purchase was made,
the acquisition was referred to the Competition Commission (CC)
in the UK, which launched an investigation following concerns
that the merger between the two companies could lead to a loss
of competition and higher prices for some existing customers in
the performance mineral applications market. Although a price
cap was imposed for performance mineral customers, the CC found
that there would not be a significant lessening of competition
in the other product markets served by Imerys and Goonvean such
as kaolin used in paper, sanitaryware, tableware,
pharmaceuticals or by-products from the extraction process.
Due to its opaque and hard wearing
properties, zircon is used in the production of ceramic tiles.
It adds attributes like opacity and whiteness, as well as
water, chemical and abrasion resistance to products such as
floor and wall tiles, sanitaryware and tableware.
Although the chemicals sector is
the fastest growing end use for zircon, figures from TZMI
indicate that the ceramics industry was the largest end market
for the 1.4m tonnes zircon produced in 2011 (accounting for 55%
of zircon use) increasing with an annual average growth rate of
5% thanks to drivers such as urbanisation and construction.
Zircon supply is relatively
consolidated with three producers accounting for two thirds of
the global production of zircon and high grade TiO2
products; Rio Tinto, Tronox and Iluka.
US domestic production of zirconium
mineral concentrates increased from 2011-2012 with consumption
remaining stable and additional supply coming online in 2013
due to a recovery in the economy and housing market in the
second half of the year.
Demand in zircon has been very much
led by consumption with China accounting for 41% of demand,
Europe for 25%, other Asia Pacific for 18%, and North America
for 8% in 2011.
However, global production of
zirconium concentrates in 2012, excluding the US, decreased
compared with 2011 due to a slowdown in Chinese consumption.
Lower demand was caused by a sluggish Chinese economy, which
saw a drop in housing construction and therefore lower demand
for ceramic tiles and sanitaryware.
According to Iluka, the industry
has suffered from a prolonged period of poor upstream industry
returns, which have been exacerbated by contracts. Volatility
in demand and pricing has also led to minimal new investment
and a limited pipeline of new supply options, as well as
limited technology contributions.
Although zircon producers such as
Iluka have confirmed that zircon demand overall recovered in
2013, Iluka added that, recovery was uneven across
geographical markets, end use sectors, as well q-o-q and sales
remain below the levels seen in 2010 and 2011.
In Europe some slow demand recovery
for zircon is expected over the course of 2014. Chinese demand
is also expected to improve as stockpiles are depleted,
although India remains an important emerging market. Demand was
negatively affected in December 2013 as 600 ceramics industrial
units went on strike for 23 days.
Demand for feldspar, used in the
ceramic and glass industries, is also closely linked with the
construction and housing markets. The minerals alumina
and alkali content makes it ideal for use as a fluxing agent in
temperature reduction in quartz and clays and is the main
component of the body composition in the ceramics tile sector.
It is also used in glazes for ceramic products, enabling the
dissolving of silica and the production of a durable end
USGS figures indicate that around
70% of feldspar production is used in glass production, with
the remaining 30% used in ceramics and other applications.
Although demand for feldspar has
been slow to rebound in regions such as Europe, demand is
increasing in regions such as Asia and the Middle East along
with recovery in the construction and housing markets.
Roskill predicts that future demand will continue to
be linked specifically to the housing sector, which is
accelerating in Middle Eastern regions.
The low rate tile consumption
per capita in the Middle East compared to North America and
Europe means that there is a large potential market given the
size of the populations, Iluka said.
According to figures from the USGS,
feldspar production in the Middle East has been largely
dominated by Turkey, which in 2009 produced around 4m tonnes,
rising to just over 7m tonnes in 2012.
White fillers - talc
The largest global end market for
talc is still paper, which accounts for 34% of the
minerals end use. The second largest is the steadily
growing polymer market, accounting for 23%, followed by
ceramics (15%) and paint (12%).
In 2009, China was the number one
producer of paper, coating, automobiles, household appliances
and ceramics. These markets also appeal to the main application
fields of talc and have great market potential.
Wollastonite is used primarily in
plastics and rubber products, ceramics, metallurgical
applications, paint and friction products.
The wollastonite industry has very few large international
players being mostly centred on a small number of producers
which dominate global trade. The leading producing countries
are China, which produced around 300,000 tonnes in 2011, and
India, where production increased slightly to 150,000 tonnes in
2011 from an estimated 145,000 tonnes in 2010. The US also
remains an important producer, accounting for approximately 12%
of world production.