Fertiliser minerals led the
cheering in July, with the latest market and pricing data
pointing to a sustained recovery in potash, phosphate and
Elsewhere, the summer lull in
Chinese buying activity impacted many markets during the month,
compounding alre-ady established declines in antimony, iodine
and mineral sands.
Pigment minerals continue to
disappoint predictions of an upturn in prices, although demand
looks set to remain positive as the market enters Q3.
Meanwhile, nervousness over the
delay to the barite (barytes) tender in India nudged up or
tightened some price ranges, while a flat refractory market
kept deadburned magnesia (DBM) prices steady but undercut some
grades of zircon.
Agriminerals - prices hold
on to H1 Gains
According to PotashCorp.s
July monthly market data, prices for potash (KCl, spot,
standard grade) have been stable at slightly above the
$300/tonne mark on an FOB Vancouver basis, with a faintly
positive trend pointing to a robust market.
DAP (spot) prices were recorded as
being in the $450-480/tonne range at the mid-year point on an
FOB Central Florida basis, having climbed from below $400/tonne
at the start of this year.
Sulphur prices are reported to be
around the $170/tonne mark and climbing towards $200/tonne on
an FOB Central Florida basis.
Market sources recently told
IM that the market for fertiliser minerals was
steady but with improving fundamentals - a view supported by
comments from some of the industrys main producers.
At the beginning of July,
PotashCorp.s new CEO, Jochen Tilk, has said that he will
continue with the companys existing strategy of prices
The principle and the
strategy of aligning production with demand has been a very
successful one, and so (...) theres no reason to change
that going forward, Tilk said in an interview with
However, some market observers told
IM that Uralkalis claims that its volume
over price strategy has been successful enough to warrant a
return to focus on prices have been exaggerated at a time when
the market was improving anyway.
Flame retardant minerals -
price growth stuttering ATH
Alumina trihydrate (ATH) prices
have risen significantly in the last 15 years, on the back of
demand increases of between 3% and 5% per year, chiefly from
insulated wire, cable and construction applications.
However, market forecasts seen by
IM suggest that there will be a sharp
deceleration in price growth over the next decade and a half,
owing to a large increase in global ATH and alumina capacity in
the last five to seven years, particularly in China.
for ATH (damp, 57-60% Al2O3, 5-8%
moisture, bulk, FOB refinery) currently stand at
Prices for antimony ingot and
antimony trioxide tumbled in the middle of July as buying
activity almost completely fell away, sources told
Demand is weak in China and
overseas, one China-based exporter said.
Others described business on
Chinas Fanya metal exchange as thin owing to
wide availability of antimony ingot and a lack of demand.
Prices had been receiving some
support from a crackdown in smuggling at the China-Vietnam
border in June and early July, however this appears to only
have postponed the effect of trade stagnation.
for antimony trioxide (typically 99.5% min
Sb2O3, 5-tonne lots) have been revised to
$7,900-8,000/tonne, down from $8,000-8,100/tonne on a CIF
Antwerp/Rotterdam basis and to $7,700-7,800/tonne (20-tonne
lots) on an FOB China basis.
Ex-works US trioxide material now
stands at $8,100-8,200/tonne, down from $8,100-8,500/tonne.
Antimony ingot prices (99.65% min)
have been lowered to $9,100-9,500/tonne from $9,500-9,800/tonne
FOB China and to $9,200-9,500/tonne CIF Rotterdam.
Standard grade II antimony metal is
priced at $9,300-9,600/tonne (in warehouse, Rotterdam),
according to Metal Bulletin.
Bromine prices have been relatively
flat for the last 6-8 months at $1.60-1.75/lb ($3.50-3.85/kg)
in the US or $3,000-3,180/tonne in Europe, sources indicated to
IM in July.
Current prices in China have
dropped slightly to around Chinese renminbi (Rmb) 17,500/tonne
($2,820/tonne*), sources said, adding that this price level is
fairly typical for the time of year.
Prices for magnesium hydroxide
(MDH) are reported to be increasing steadily in line with a
growing preference for non-halogenated flame retardants.
Price estimates for MDH vary
dramatically by application, so it is difficult to set an
average price that reflects the market, but analysis by
Roskill Information Service has suggested that prices
for MDH used in flame retardants have quadrupled since 2005,
with values being around double that for ATH ($8-10/kg) for any
Price appreciation for minerals
used in flame retardants is slowing, according to recent market
reports, as the speed of demand growth from electronics
manufacturing and construction, particularly in Asia, begins to
Recent capacity expansion for many
mineral-based chemicals in order to meet growing demand in
recent years has created a gap between output and
Mineral sands - no
improvement in sight
Prices for ilmenite weakened by
around 10% during Q2 2014, sources told
Market participants said that
prices (bulk, min 54% TiO2), had dropped from around
$160-165/tonne a month ago to $150/tonne by mid-July on a CIF
Spot and contract values on an FOB
Australia basis remain slightly higher, meanwhile, at
$155-175/tonne, although some speculated that these prices were
Paints and coatings producer PPG
Industries said during a conference call for its second quarter
2014 earnings report in July that it does not anticipate any
near-term price rises in titanium dioxide
For TiO2, we
didnt see much movement between the first and second
quarter and we are really not anticipating any movements
up, CEO Chuck Bunch told analysts.
Zircon prices have softened further
as the market enters the third quarter of 2014,
IM has learned.
Sources said that industry
benchmark prices for zircon on a CIF China basis had been set
for Q3 at levels slightly below those seen in the previous
quarter, at around $1,160/tonne, although actual deals are
being agreed below this mark.
They added that prices for premium
grade zircon (min 66.5% ZrO2, bulk, CIF China) were
around $1,050/tonne. We are hearing about prices of
$1,150/tonne, but we are not seeing business at this
level, a China-based source said.
Elsewhere, miners Kenmare Resources
and Sierra Rutile both released second quarter results in early
July, which pointed to lower prices for zircon.
for premium grade zircon (min 66.5% ZrO2, bulk, CIF
China) have been revised to $1,050-1,150/tonne, while prices
for standard grade are now set at $1,000-1,150/tonne
Mineral sands prices remain under
pressure worldwide as ready supply availability has been met
with flat demand from the pigment and ceramics industries and
smaller refractory markets.
Sources said recent production
increases from ilmenite miners have added weight to the supply
side, while zircon prices have come down across the board.
Currently, demand in
TiO2 remains stable but is expected to rise as
painting activity increases in the northern hemispheres
An industry participant active in
the Asian markets said that it is unlikely that prices for
ceramics in Asia will go up in the foreseeable future as the
Chinese property sector has entered recession and the country
is in the early stages of a credit crunch.
According to recent calculations by
Roskill, China stockpiled around 250,000 tonnes zircon
in 2013, which is likely to be scuppering demand for new
Sources said they expected
benchmark zircon prices to remain level this quarter but that
they will be reviewed at the beginning of Q4.
Oilfield minerals - Indian
barite prices rise
Prices for some Indian drilling
grade barite rose in July, as the delay to the anticipated 2014
mining and marketing tenders continued to cause anxiety.
Values for Indian barite (API,
ground, big bags, 1.5 tonnes, FOB Chennai) have increased to
$165-180/tonne from a previous range of $140-160/tonne.
Lump barite (API, CIF Gulf Coast,
Indian), has edged up slightly at the lower end to
$158-171/tonne, from $157-171/tonne.
Other price ranges have also
narrowed, meanwhile, with prices for drilling grade
(underground lump, OCMA/API, bulk, SG 4.20) closing in to
$138-145/tonne from $136-148/tonne.
USGS figures show that global
barite production fell last year to 8.5m tonnes from 9.2m
tonnes in 2013, possibly as a result of stockpiling by oilfield
users in 2012, which held back demand.
While rig counts remained fairly
constant in 2013, the latest analysis from Baker Hughes
(see p13) showed a year-on-year increase of
almost 5% to 3,437 rigs, suggesting that oilfield mineral
consumption is also increasing.
In early July, IM
reported that the three-yearly contracts to mine and market
Indian barite from the Mangampet mine in Andhra Pradesh had
missed the slated 1 July completion deadlines (see
The hold up in the tender process
has caused some consternation in the wider market, with
industry participants nervous about the impact the tender could
have on prices. Some said they expected prices to go up
slightly in the near term as a result of this anxiety.
Refractory minerals -
business as usual for DBM
Prices for Chinese dead burned
magnesia (DBM) are reported to be stable at current levels as
the industry enters the second half of 2014.
Some US-based sources said that
prices may drop towards the end of Q3, as the flat market could
tip into decline if buying activity fails to pick up. Rumours
of forthcoming magnesia fire sales in China during
September and October could also weigh on prices.
for Chinese DBM (lump, FOB China) stand at $255-270/tonne for
90% MgO material; $320-400/tonne for 92% MgO; $350-400/tonne
for 94-95% MgO; and $450-485/tonne for 97.5% MgO.
Sources told IM
the export market for Chinese material was now
flat, having ebbed earlier in the year as a result
of reduced demand from refractories manufacturers in Europe and
Market reports in June suggested
that exports of Chinese DBM were around 34,025 tonnes in April,
declining by 34% year-on-year (y-o-y) and 41% month-on-month
The value of exports also fell to
$8.79m, down by 47% y-o-y and 41% m-o-m. Total DBM exports from
China in the first four months of 2014 totalled 204,800
One Europe-based source told
IM that large European buyers have been
pushing Chinese exporters for lower prices, but said that
suppliers were holding firm on offers.
Filler minerals - costs
Rising costs of producing
vermiculite are reported to be edging up the price of
exfoliated grades, IM has learned.
Sources said that the prices of
exfoliated South African vermiculite (bagged, grading 1mm, 3mm,
8mm per 110 litre/4 cu.ft bag, ex-Johannesburg) had risen by
Market participants in Brazil also
acknowledged that costs were increasing, although they said
that they had no plans to increase the price of bulk
concentrates at present.
for South African exfoliated vermiculite have been increased to
$4-6/110 litre bag, up from $3.20-4.65/110 litre bag.
Concentrate (bulk, FOB Antwerp) prices stand at $315-715/tonne,
Brazilian bulk material values
stand at $230-577/tonne on an FOB Antwerp basis and
$230-550/tonne on an East Coast US basis.
Exfoliation of vermiculite involves
heating mineral concentrates to temperatures above 870¡C
and prices of the processed material tend to increase in line
with input costs.
Speciality minerals -
iodine weakens further
Iodine prices have moved down again
as producers have cut offers in an effort to attract buyers,
sources have said.
Europe and South America-based
suppliers told IM that their lower range offer
prices were edging towards the $36/kg range, although some
prices were still holding on to the low $40s.
prices (crystal, 99.5% min, drums) have been revised to
$36-40/kg on a spot basis and $37-43/kg on a contract
Chinese purchasing activity remains
muted and competition is fierce to secure orders, sources told
Market participants believe that
prices have not yet reached a floor, but added that they expect
values to bottom later this year at close to current
*Conversion made July
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