Andalusite is used for monolithic
linings in the steel industry, particularly in blast and
electric furnaces. It is also used in the glass industry and in
Andalusite-based refractories are
mainly produced in the regions which host the raw mineral
Within this market andalusite has
replaced other refractory raw materials such as chamotte,
bauxite, and fused alumina.
The market consists of only a few
producers worldwide. Over the past 25 years production of
andalusite and its products has mainly been focused in South
Africa and Europe, with Imerys SA controlling 70% of the
Andalusite, kyanite and sillimanite
are aluminosilicate minerals, with high
Al2O3 content varying from 63%
(high-grade) to below 40% (low-grade), and silica content of
The minerals have the same chemical
composition, but differ in their structure and physical
properties (see table).
Under heating, all three minerals
transform to make mullite, an ideal refractory material, which
contains up to 72% Al2O3 and melting at
Mullite is made of needle-like
crystals, which gives the material high load-bearing capacity
at elevated temperatures.
Andalusite converts to mullite when
heated at temperatures between 1,300¡C and 1,550¡C.
It is the best source of mullite as its unique microstructure
traps the liquid silica released in the process called
Dirk Auge, from German andalusite
trading company Cofermin Rohstoffe GmbH, told
IM that sillimanite and mullite can be used as
substitutes for certain applications, but the ceramic companies
do not publish the exact formulations for this use.
It is a matter of
availability, physical properties and price. Sillimanite is
mainly available in small size fractions, up to 1 mm, while
andalusite generally up to 4 mm; the coarse grits (3-6 mm)
sometimes needed by the refractory makers are rare, he
Carlos de Ferrari, president of
Andalucita SA, said that andalusite has several advantages over
kyanite, sillimanite and other high-alumina and fireclay
materials, as it can be used directly in the manufacture of
refractory products, without pre-calcination, a process which
is needed for kyanite and sillimanite.
Since andalusite needs no
calcining, it offers significant economies in that it saves
energy, an advantage that is of importance in the light of
increasing energy costs, De Ferrari said in the 2013
products show good corrosion resistance towards carbon
monoxide, alkalis, acidic slag and melted metals and is a
relatively inert raw material, with low thermal conductivity
and high creep resistance.
For this reason, andalusite
competes with other calcined kaolinitic/bauxitic
According to a comparative study in
2013, conducted by South African producer Vereeniging
Refractories Ltd, in collaboration with the Southern African
Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, andalusite has better
performance compared with bauxite for applications as
refractories; with higher chemical purity, higher creep
resistance, resistance to chemical attack and thermal shock
In March this year, adverse weather
conditions in South Africa affected operations in Thabazimbi
and Limpopo regions, which lie north-west of Johannesburg.
Producers operating in this region
suffered flooding to pits and damage to infrastructure, causing
a great deal of disruption in the supply chain.
The severe rains in February
and March have disrupted our production by about four
weeks, Colin Bain, financial director of Andalusite
Resources Ltd, told IM.
Auge added: We have recently
experienced some lower production outputs in the Limpopo
province of South Africa because of heavy rain far above
average, he told IM.
In North America, andalusite
consumption has been relatively small, with the refractory
industry relying on bauxite-based and kyanite-based
The recent discovery of large
andalusite resources in Peru, and the possibility of new
producers entering the supply chain, could attract Latin
America and North America as potential new markets.
South African producer Andalusite
Resources Ltd, which extracts the mineral from its
Maroeloesfontein mine in Thabazimbi, Limpopo province, said
that more than a quarter of its annual production goes to the
domestic market, while another 30-40% goes to Europe and rest
Japan is a very sophisticated
market. They were among the first to recognise the benefits of
using andalusite and have proven very loyal, said the
Andalusite Resources explained that
the refractory industry is extremely cautious and conservative
in its choice of refractory products, and once a product is
chosen, there is a strong resistance to change.
According to the US Geological
Survey (USGS), the total world production of andalusite,
kyanite and sillimanite was about 440,000 tonnes in 2013, up by
7.8% compared with 2012.
The Department of Mineral Resources
and Statistics in South Africa meanwhile said that total
production of andalusite in 2013 was at 220,000 tonnes in 2013,
up 10% from 2012.
Denain-Anzin Mineraux Refractarie Ceramique (Damrec), is the
worlds largest supplier of andalusite and produced 70% of
the total output from South Africa.
Damrec operates in the region with
two subsidiaries, Rhino Minerals Ltd, which controls the
Annesley, Havercroft and Rhino mines in the Limpopo province,
and South African Mineral Resource Committee Ltd (Samrec),
which operates Krugerpost mine in Mpumalanga province.
Andalusite Resources meanwhile
produced 72,000 tpa in 2012, with the company planning to
expand its production to 90,000 tpa by the end of 2014.
The companys main markets are
China, Europe, India and South Africa.
According to the Minerals Bureau of
South Africa, reserves of andalusite and sillimanite are 94.9m
In France, Damrec mines andalusite
near Glomel, Brittany, with a production of about 65,000 tonnes
andalusite in 2013, flat year-on-year (y-o-y), which accounts
for 8% of the US imports, according to the USGS.
The Minerals Bureau of South Africa
estimates Frances andalusite reserves to be at least 2.4m
China-based Imerys subsidiary
Yilong Andalusite Mineral Co. mines andalusite in the Xinjiang
region, north-west China, with a production capacity of 40,000
tpa, according to the USGS.
China imported 17,700 tonnes of
andalusite, kyanite and sillimanite in the first half of 2013,
with imports reaching 34,000 tonnes at
the end of November 2013, according
to Refractory Window publication.
Imerys also owns andalusite
resources in Peru, though it is still developing projects
Andalucita SA mines andalusite from
unconsolidated sand and gravels in the Tablazo Mancora flood
plain, in the north-west of Peru.
In 2013, Andalucita increased its
production capacity to 48,000 tpa from 25,000 tpa in 2012.
Andalucitas mineral is high
purity, with grades varying from 59% to 60% alumina
(Al2O3) and a maximum of 0.85% iron
ASX-listed junior company Latin
Resources Ltd has been developing a large deposit of andalusite
at its Guadalupito project, 25km from the port city of
Chimbote, Peru, which it acquired in 2011.
A JORC compliant resource estimate
indicates 5bn tonnes mineralised sediments, of which 22% to 25%
consist of andalusite, along with other minerals including
ilmenite, rutile and zircon.
The company is planning to produce
an initial 159,000 tpa andalusite and estimated a mine life of
Latin Resources said that
andalusite concentrates, produced from heavy liquid separation,
showed the potential for a product containing 58%
Al2O3, which could be further increased
via electrostatic separation processes.
Andrew Bristow, general manager of
the Guadalupito project at Latin Resources, told
IM that the company aims to enter production
in late 2016.
Latin is already working with
minerals distributors in the US, in anticipation of supplying
andalusite products to the country, Bristow said.
He added that, given the size and
the unique potential for very significant levels of andalusite,
the company will market the raw mineral not only in the US and
Latin America, but also worldwide.
The other products that we
aim to recover simultaneously allow for production costs to be
shared amongst each product, resulting in very low unit cost of
production for a premium andalusite product, Bristow told
Low production costs should
also provide additional scope to offset shipping costs which
will allow Latin to supply andalusite competitively anywhere in
the world, he added.
Production of andalusite, kyanite
and sillimanite in the US amounted to 95,000 tonnes in 2013,
down from 99,000 tonnes the previous year.
Piedmont Minerals Co., a subsidiary
of US-based refractory producer, Resco Products Inc., mines
andalusite, together with pyrophillite and sericite, in
Hillsborough, North Carolina, mainly for the domestic ceramics
and refractory market.
Kyanite Mining Corp. has mined
kyanite deposits in central Virginia since 1945. According to
the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy, the
company produced about 121,500 tonnes kyanite in 2013, up 12%
Kyanite contains between 55% and
60% Al2O3, and reserves at Kyanite
Minings East Ridge and Willis Mountain mines are
sufficient for 50 to 75 years at the current production
An estimated 30% to 35% kyanite
produced by the company was calcined to produce mullite for the
In 2012, processing capacity at its
Gieseke plant was more than 135,000 tonnes kyanite concentrate,
of which 45,000 tonnes calcined to form refractory-grade
In the same year, C-E Minerals,
part of French mining company Imerys SA, produced 40,000 tonnes
synthetic mullite from calcined bauxitic kaolin in Georgia,
according to the USGS.
The agency reported that andalusite
imports to US amounted to 6,000 tonnes in 2013, from South
Africa (80%), France (8%) and Peru (7%).
British Columbia, Canada, also
hosts more than 45 kyanite and 23 andalusite occurrences
according the British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines
Kyanite deposits are at the
Dudevoir Passage and Trail Bay, in the Tsimpsean Peninsula and
Hawkesbury Island, while andalusite resources are in the areas
of the Omineca Coast and Insular belt and in the Bridge River
area, 180km north of Vancouver.
Andalusite ores vary from 7% to 20%
andalusite content, corresponding to a production capacity of
between 25,000 and 65,000 tpa, the BCMEM said.
India is host to kyanite,
sillimanite and andalusite resources.
The India Bureau of Mine (IBM)
reported total resources of kyanite amounting to 103.2m tonnes
in 2010, of which 1.6m tonnes reserves and 101.7m tonnes
remaining resources are mainly concentrated in the states of
Andhra Pradesh (78%), Karnataka (13%) and Jharkhand (6%).
Sillimanite resources amount to
about 67m tonnes in 2010, with 4.1m tonnes reserves and 62.9m
tonnes remaining resources being mainly located in Tamil Nadu
(27%), Odisha (20%), Uttar Pradesh (17%), Andhra Pradesh (14%)
and Kerala (11%).
Andalusite inferred resources
amounted to 18.5m tonnes in 2010, located in Uttar Pradesh and
Jharkhand, according to IBM.
The IBM indicated production of
kyanite in 2012 decreasing by 32%, to about 4,000 tonnes, due
to the closure of mines, forest problems and lack of
The main producers are Jharkhand
State Mineral Development Corp., accounting for 99% of
production, and Maharashtra State Mining Corp.
Kyanite consumption in the domestic
market remained flat at 3,900 tonnes in 2012, entirely from the
refractory industry, while imports decreased from 500 tonnes to
260 tonnes in 2012.
Production of sillimanite in India
amounted to 58,000 tonnes in 2012, an increase of 19% y-o-y,
due to rising demand, according to the IBM.
Three main producers, including
Indian Rare Earths Ltd, Trimex Sands Private Ltd and
Maharashtra State Mining Corp., contributed to the entire
Sillimanite consumption in India
increased by 2% in 2012, up to 12,700 tonnes, with the
refractory industry accounting for the 94% of its
In 2012, India saw sillimanite
exports surge up to 11,900 tonnes, mainly to China, Bangladesh,
Oman and Japan, compared with 2,200 tonnes exported in the
India stopped andalusite production
in 1988 relying on imports instead. Imports of the mineral grew
by 11% in 2012, to 6,100 tonnes, mainly from South
Andalusite resources have been also
reported in Kazakhstan and recently in Terengganu, Malaysia,
while sillimanite and kyanite mineralisation is present in
South Australia and Brazil.
Australia imported about 10,900
tonnes of andalusite, kyanite and sillimanite in 2013, up 44%
y-o-y, according to Australia's Bureau of Resources and Energy
Kyanite resources are present in
Brazil, in the state of Mina Gerais, where refractory producer
Togni S/A Materiais Refratarios has a production capacity
varying between 120,000 and 160,000 tpa.
Junior Picobello Andalucita SL has
been recently developing an andalusite project in Galicia,
Spain, near the Fragas do Eume National Park. The company plans
to extract 65,000 tpa of raw mineral, of which 50,000 tpa
refractory grade andalusite during a 15-year mine life.
However, the company is still
waiting for environmental permits owing to its proximity to an
environmentally protected area.
Refractories demand is expected to
rebound on the back of growth in the iron and steel markets.
This, in turn, would lead to a resurgence in demand for
This outlook might push up
andalusite prices in the near future, with new suppliers
entering the market, especially from South America.
Andalusite-like minerals, such as
sillimanite and kyanite, are potential competitors in accessing
the refractory market in the near term, as alternatives to
andalusite. However, as IM learned, andalusite
has some cost advantages as it uses less energy.
Refractory products account for the
90% of andalusite, kyanite and sillimanite consumption
Cofermins Auge told
IM that the global market of andalusite in
2013 was in the range of between 250,000 and 280,000
The main applications are
refractories for the steel, cement industry as well as
incinerators, Auge said.
Compared to 2012 and 2011 we
believe that the total size of the market has not drastically
changed. It predominantly shifted in the territories, and
overall grew only slightly, Auge added.
Cofermin reported a reduction in
the markets supply capacity due to mine closures and
ageing deposits. The company added that this reduction,
together with a slight rise in demand, especially from Poland
and Eastern Europe, has pushed the market out of a period of
over-supply, moving it towards equilibrium again.
The world steel industry is back to
a positive trend since its downturn due to the global economic
crisis in 2009. Data from the World Steel Association
(worldsteel) show a steady increase in steel production from
1.43bn tonnes in 2010 to 1.58bn tonnes in 2013, up 2.4%
Despite optimism for a global pick
up in steel production during 2014, figures from worldsteel
showed a 0.4% shrinkage y-o-y in steel production for January
2014, to around 130m tonnes.
China, which is the worlds
largest refractory producer, saw crude steel production fall
3.2% y-o-y together with the US, which saw a slight reduction
by 0.5% compared with the same period in 2013.
Contrary to this trend, the EU and
Japan recorded positive outcomes, with steel production growing
by 7.3% and 6.1%, respectively.
The overall slower growth of the
steel industry affected the demand for refractories.
While a number of new producers are
emerging outside China, in particular in Guyana, Russia, Brazil
and India, the end-sectors might also move to alternative
refractory products, in particular higher performance
refractories such as andalusite, kyanite, sillimanite and
sintered mullite, according to Roskill.
Prices for andalusite imported from
South Africa increased by 2% to 5% in 2012, to $311-370/tonne
(FOB, 57% to 58% Al2O3) and
$463-562/tonne (FOB, European port, 55% to 59%
Al2O3). The average price for imported
andalusite from South Africa in US was $350/tonne in 2013,
according to the USGS.
The agency said that the increase
in prices was the result of increased demand from the
refractory industry, partly because companies started to
substitute bauxite with andalusite in their refractory
products, and equally because Imerys increased prices on its
We see the consistent
increase in price and demand as a positive for andalusite
producers, Bristow, general manager at Latin Resources,
andalusite, with a high percentage of
Al2O3 and low impurities, attracts
premium prices, he added.
Data from the Department of Mineral
Resources and Statistics of South Africa show that the
andalusite price in South Africa increased steadily from
$130.5/tonne in 2006 to $217.6/tonne in 2012. Prices were
estimated from the share between total sales and the value of
the South African rand.
Calculations on data from the IBM
show an increase in prices of andalusite imported to India,
rising from $301/tonne in 2011 to $336/tonne in 2012 for
andalusite from South Africa, from $326.6/tonne to $470.4/tonne
for andalusite from France and from $358.6/tonne to $384/tonne
for andalusite from Peru. Prices were estimated from the ratio
between imported quantities and value in Indian rupees.
Estimates from Chinas imports
data of andalusite, kyanite and sillimanite from January to
November 2013, confirm prices of these minerals to be around
Average prices for imported
andalusite, kyanite and sillimanite from the Ministry of
Environment of Czech Republic, were about $540/tonne, while
average prices for imported mullite were up to $983/tonne in
The demand for high-grade
materials, as well as market availability and pricing policy of
suppliers, are reasons for the rise in prices, Frank
Richter from Mineralmahlwerk Westerwald Horn GmbH & Co. and
Harald Seifert from the Technische Universitat Bergakademie in
Freiberg told Refractory Worldforum in 2013.
As several raw materials for
refractories are scarce and the production of synthetic raw
materials has high energy costs, prices have constantly
increased in the last years, Richter and Seifert
Prices of South Africas
andalusite have also increased, but to a less extent, from
$180-200/tonne in 2000 to $297-346/tonne in 2011.
South African producers
battle with ever rising costs for labour and energy, Auge
He added that, in the last two
years, the devaluation of the South African rand against the
euro and US dollar helped compensate the cost increase.
In case the rand will get
stronger again we dont believe they [andalusite
producers] have much choice other than passing these increases
on to the market place, Auge said.
Prices of kyanite (FOB) in the US
increased from $149-169/tonne in 2005 to $247-353/tonne (raw,
54%-60% alumina) in 2012, according to the USGS.
Estimates from the IBM indicate
prices of $359/tonne for imported kyanite to India in 2011,
while prices for sillimanite in India amounted to $134/tonne in
2011 and $144-146/tonne in 2012.
Figures from worldsteel show that
apparent consumption of steel in the US will increase by 2.9%
in 2014, following an 8.4% increase in 2011 to 2012, mostly
from the automotive and energy sector.
Global steel consumption is also
expected to grow by 3.2% in 2014, with an increase of 2.5% in
Growth is also expected within the
Chinas cement industry, according to the USGS, an
industry which could become a potential end-market for
andalusite, kyanite and sillimanite minerals as alternatives to
bauxite-based refractory products.
Andalusite could also enter the
Chinese market, in light of increasing domestic demand from the
According to our estimates,
Chinas demand cannot be supplied from local andalusite
producers (mainly located in Xinjiang Province) by 100% and the
deficit will have to be imported andalusite, Auge told
A sharp shift to andalusite-based
refractories in the iron and steel industry will depend on the
ability of refractories to use alternatives to bauxite-based
products, the quantity and price of bauxite available for
mullite production and the quantity and price of andalusite
available for this market.
Chinas quotas on bauxite
exports and its rising prices could help andalusite permeate
the refractory market worldwide.
We foresee a more equitable
relation between demand and supply, which is already becoming
visible in the stabilisation of price levels, in conjunction
with slight upsurges in some territories, Auge told
He added that in the mid-term the
major players in the market will have enough capacity to serve
the rising demand.
Although new bauxite producers are
also entering the market, andalusite and mullite refractory
products could become more competitive owing to lower energy
consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
A potential for market expansion of
andalusite-based refractories is offered by the North American
Germany, with an average steel
production of 45m tpa, consumed about 40,000 tpa of andalusite
in 2013. On the other hand the US steel market, with an average
outcome of 90m tpa crude steel, consumed only 4,000 tpa
andalusite in the same year.
TAK Industrial Mineral
Consultancy forecast that world refractory production will
rise to 46m tonnes by 2017, on the back of an average annual
growth rate of 3.5% in global crude steel production.
However, the rise in refractories
demand will be likely to be slightly offset by an overall
reduction in consumption of refractories per tonne of steel
produced, with China expected to reduce its specific
consumption of 23 kg per tonne, owing to the use of more
advanced steelmaking practices.
Additionally, new market
opportunities could come from innovative applications such as
the use of mullite as a catalyst, replacing platinum, in diesel
engines to reduce nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide
This new application was studied by scientists from the
University of Texas in 2012, with the start-up company
Nanostellar having commenced commercialisation of the