by IM staff
While deadburned magnesia (DBM)
holds the largest share of the magnesia market, interesting
opportunities are arising in caustic calcined magnesia (CCM)
production. This market is set to expand as a greater need for
CCM in animal feed and fertilisers, arises on the back of
changing diets in emerging economies and a growing middle
This has led major companies such
as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton to invest in fertiliser markets
more heavily this year.
Another area of growth, albeit a
small one, is the use of CCM in pharmaceutical applications,
although this calls for a very high grade of CCM.
The bulk (approximately 90%) of CCM
production is based on natural magnesite and destined largely
for agricultural applications, such as animal feedstuffs and
fertilisers (involving grades in the 85 - 90% MgO range) or for
bulk industrial applications, such as construction and paper
processing (90 - 95% MgO). The uses for magnesia as a
refractory mineral or as filler in animal feed are well known,
though not so well reported is the use of magnesium hydroxide,
or brucite, which is used in chemical applications and as a
China is a major producer of CCM,
holding about 72% of capacity, followed by Spain with 6%, the
US with 3%, and Greece, Austria and Canada with 2%,
The remaining 10% of CCM production
based on seawater/brine includes both high (+99% MgO) and
medium (+96% MgO) purities for specialised industrial
applications ranging from chemicals, pharmaceuticals,
anti-scorch agents, steel coating and environmental uses.
Indeed, water and effluent treatment has been a major growth
area in recent years. Production of brine-based CCM is
concentrated in the US, Japan and Israel.
While there are numerous
non-refractory uses for CCM, the largest volumes are used in
agricultural and water treatment/neutralisation
In the agricultural sector,
considerable quantities are used in the North American and
European markets, where CCM is used as an additive in animal
feed, with developing markets in countries such as China and
Magnesia is also used as a
fertiliser, especially in Europe. In North America the use of
magnesia as fertiliser has not been taken up as quickly.
Instead, water treatment applications hold a larger portion of
the market in North America than in Europe. There, applications
tend to utilise magnesium hydroxide, either from brine
operations where it is extracted directly before calcining, or
by hydration of CCM.
Many other applications are
regarded as niche uses or require high purities that can only
be achieved from synthetic sources.
However, for CCM there are uses in
flue gas desulphurisation, cements and hydrometallurgy.
The largest end market for CCM is
in animal feed, with the largest consumer being
dairy cattle, with around 75% of the animal feed market using
It is estimated that worldwide the
consumption of magnesia in animal feed is of the order of
470,000 tonnes, which is expected to increase to about 600,000
tonnes by 2020.
The markets in Europe and North
America are very stable but may even have declined a little
with some reductions in milk consumption. Growth is expected to
take place in developing markets such as China and Brazil.
Magnesium is critical in the
dietary requirements of cattle, sheep and other livestock to
prevent hypomagnesemia, grass tetany, grass staggers, lactation
tetany, or wheat pasture poisoning; particularly in lactating
or pregnant dairy cows. This is particularly critical in the
early spring when pasture grasses may be magnesium
It also strengthens bones and teeth
and is necessary as an activator of various enzymes for proper
nerve and muscle function and it maintains the appetite of
ruminants as well as regulating heart rate and muscle
CCM and China
China remains the largest producer
of CCM, with most of the capacity coming out of Liaoning
Province. The industry has shifted gears in recent years and is
now vying to create a more streamlined, energy-efficient
industry to protect the resource in the area, which was in the
past poorly managed with a lot of wastage. Smuggling however
remains a concern.
About 70% of the magnesia products
produced in Liaoning are sold within China with the rest
exported to Asia, North America and Europe. The main
destinations for CCM are the Netherlands, US and Japan.
Major integrated refractories
group, Haicheng Houyin, began exploiting Chinas first
cryptocrystalline magnesite deposit in 2008. The deposit is
located in the eastern part of Tibet. This is presented as an
exceptionally high purity magnesite. Full production volume is
intended to be 100,000 tpa high-purity CCM and the material
will be taken to the companys Haicheng plant in Liaoning
Province for further heat treatment.
Brucite - the other side of
Magnesium hydroxide, or brucite, is
used in chemical applications and as a fire retardant as well
as in refractories.
Brucite occurs in serpentine,
chlorite, or dolomitic schists or in crystalline limestones and
forms through dedolomitisation and an enrichment of magnesia
from intrusive rocks.
When it is calcined at high
temperatures, brucite gives active magnesium oxide. This
product finds its application in the rubber and tyre industry
as an additive and stabiliser.
A company that is exploring this
use of brucite is Russian Mining Chemical Co., which recently
opened an office in Amsterdam, demonstrating that there is
adequate demand for its products.
Our company and its products
are widely represented in Russia. Now we are targeting European
and Asian markets, a spokesman for the company said.
Russian Mining Chemical Company
mines brucite in east Russia, but processes the mineral into
flame retardants at its milling plant in the Vyazma city,
Milled brucite finds application in
different industrial areas, such as fertiliser production,
paper bleaching, glass production, for waste water treatment
and gas purification. But the most significant application is a
production of mineral flame retardants.
The company produces 150,000 tpa
brucite, which generates around 30,000 tpa of several different
flame retardant grades; 60,000 tpa of agricultural products and
70,000 tpa of foundry fluxes.
Currently we supply our flame retardants to the major
Russian plastics companies, cable producers, aluminium
composite panels manufacturers, etc. In Europe we are targeting
the same industrial sectors plus paper pulp bleaching,
the company told IM.
Assets of the Russian Mining Chemical Company
Kuldur Brucite Mine
- Subsidiary company located on
the Far East of Russia
- Mines raw material -
mineral brucite (natural magnesium hydroxide)
- Crushes and enriches this
- Sends railway carriages
with the material to the plant
- Producing plant located
within short distance of Moscow
- Mills and classifies
delivered raw material, processing it into different grades
- Laboratory for testing
- Packs products and
provides logistics to customers
Russian Mining Chemical
- Mother company
- Financing and new
- Control of operations
- R&D and technical
- Marketing of products
- European representative
- Storehouse expected in
the near future
- Plastics laboratory in
the future (technical support)
- New production facilities
in the project
- Logistics and technical/application support for our