Lingering inventories in rare earths and titanium dioxide
(TiO2) markets are frustrating hopes of recovery
in these sectors, IM learned in February.
Elsewhere, market observers have warned of an imminent price
jump for Indian drilling grade barite (barytes), while most
other markets remained stable under steady but subdued
trading conditions in recent weeks.
US clays see further price
Kaolin and ball clay
The US’ only privately owned clay
producer, southern states-based Old Hickory Clay Co. and its
subsidiary, Gleason Clay Co. LLC, are to increase their prices
for kaolin and ball clay by 4-8%, effective 1 March.
The increases will vary according to grade and
are subject to existing contracts.
IM’s prices for
paper coating grade kaolin (ex-Georgia plant) currently stand
Old Hickory’s CEO, Lee Powell, said
that the higher prices are necessary to offset cost inflation.
The company’s decision to up its prices for kaolin
lags those of locally based rivals, Imerys Ceramics, KaMin and
BASF, which each announced price increases towards the end of
last year. Imerys Ceramics North America, which also announced
price rises for ball clay, put up its selling prices by 15%
from 1 January.
KaMin raised its prices for industrial grade
kaolin by between 5-7% in December last year, meanwhile, and
BASF made its products up to 7% more expensive at the beginning
of November 2014.
All of the companies blamed higher costs for the
price hikes, while Imerys also warned that volatility in the
freight market could inflate delivered prices over the next
Energy minerals - stability for rare
Hopes that rare earths prices would firm up
noticeably in February had failed to materialise by the time
IM went to press, although there was some
positivity in some areas of the market, including europium.
IM’s prices for
europium oxide (min 99%, bulk, FOB China) currently stand at
Shorter supply during the Chinese New Year
holiday and anticipation that China’s State
Reserve Bureau will begin stockpiling rare earths - although
this is likely to be limited to heavy elements including
europium and dysprosium - was expected to lift rare earths
prices in February.
Well stocked inventories remain an insurmountable
barrier to a decisive firming in the market, however, and
prices for all rare earths have been broadly stable since the
end of last year, with some minor fluctuations around
IM’s published ranges.
Mineral sands - no recovery before
TiO2 prices are unlikely to see a lift
before 2016, but the long term fundamentals for the market are
strong, industry analysts have said. Prices for ilmenite,
rutile and TiO2 are stable towards the lower end of
IM’s published ranges at present,
after dropping slightly towards the end of Q4 last year.
Ilmenite prices currently stand at between
$150-165/tonne on an FOB Australia basis, while rutile prices
range between $820-950/tonne on a CIF China basis and
$840-$1,000/tonne on an FOB Australia basis, according to the
IM Prices Database.
Speaking to IM at the Mining
Indaba 2015 conference in Cape Town, South Africa, in early
February, a source familiar with the Australian mineral sands
market said that pigment raw material producers had little
choice but to weather the storm.
"The market is in a tight spot at the moment,"
the source said. "There isn’t going to be any
demand creation in this industry. You hear miners talking about
inventories going down but until consumption picks up,
they’re not going to need any more raw
One UK-based market observer said that
TiO2 has a solid base which will underpin a strong
recovery in the medium term, but noted that the fact that the
drop in Sierra Leone production had no effect on prices
indicated the weak state of the industry at present.
In mid-February, Australian mineral sands miner
Iluka Resources posted an Australian dollar ($A) 62.5m
($48.9m*) loss for 2014, blaming weak prices and market
conditions, while Cristal Global (see p20), Huntsman
Corp. and Kenmare Resources have each announced job losses as
lower prices force producers to cut running costs.
Oilfield minerals - mixed
The price of drilling grade barite from India
could leap as high as $220-230/tonne CIF North America if
proposed changes to the mining industry in Andhra Pradesh lead
to a government-backed hike in export values.
Speaking at the Oilfield Minerals Middle East
Conference in Abu Dhabi in late January, Bharath Reddy, head of
operations and logistics at Andhra Pradesh-based Garuda Group,
explained that the price increases would apply to SG 4.20
CIF Middle East prices for Indian barite could
increase to $200-215/tonne, meanwhile, Reddy said. FOB Chennai
prices for drilling grade (OCMA/API, bulk, SG 4.20) material
currently stand at $138-145/tonne.
In mid-February, IM reported
that Chinese oilfield grade barite prices had fallen by up to
$5/tonne in the face of weaker demand.
One Europe-based distributor said that the upper
end of IM’s price range for
Chinese SG 4.20 drilling grade barite (API, underground lump,
FOB China) fell from $128/tonne to $123/tonne. Prices at the
lower end of the range had only softened slightly, meanwhile,
from $112/tonne to $110/tonne.
The drop was confirmed by US-based buyers,
although they said that prices for other Chinese grades had
Reddy said that a focus on producing high grade
drilling material and a halt in Andhra Pradesh’s
production since August 2014 as a result of changes to mine
allocation policy had primed the Indian barite market for a
price jump, and warned of further price fluctuation in the
At present, however, European sources said that
in addition to lower demand, which could be a combination of a
seasonal downturn in northern hemisphere drilling activity and
lower oil prices resulting in well closures, the latest fall in
Chinese prices could also be reflective of customers turning
away from Chinese material in favour of other sources.
Full information on all
IM’s prices can be
found on the IM Prices Database
online at www.indmin.com/pricesdatabase. For fluorspar and
graphite prices, please visit the IM
Data mineral tracker pages at
www.indmin.com/fluorspar and www.indmin.com/graphite.
*Conversion made February 2015