||After a tumultuous year for the mining
and minerals industry in 2014, early indications for the
first quarter of this year are that the sector has
entered a period of relative calm.
Flat prices across many mineral segments
(pp65-66) and an apparent bottoming out of key
downstream markets such as the oil and gas and pigments
industries, as well as on the financing side of the
(p8 and p23), have offered
some hope that, from now on, the only way is straight
ahead, if not quite up, for the time being.
A smattering of high profile deals, done and undone, made
the headlines in April, with ASX-listed Triton Minerals
securing a $2bn Chinese offtake agreement for its
graphite project in Mozambique (p10), while
world leading industrial minerals group Imerys has had
its takeover of Andalusite Resources blocked by the South
African Competition Commission (p9).
|Magnesia consumption is linked to a
handful of fairly stable end markets, but declining
refractories demand is posing a challenge for the
SOURCE: SMA Magnesium
Elsewhere, wind power gusted back into view with
the signing of two significant contracts. French battery maker
Saft has won an order to supply Faroe Islands power company SEV
with a lithium-ion based energy storage system, and US rare
earths miner Molycorp Inc. has announced it is to provide
Siemens with magnet materials for wind turbines
On the operations side, Rio Tinto has cut its
titanium dioxide (TiO2) output in response to market
conditions while its march on the iron ore industry continues,
despite the collapse in the price of the steel mineral
(p14), and Sierra Rutile has signalled its optimism
for an upturn in the pigments market with the construction of
its Gangama Dry Mining project (p22).
Shifting positions in
In a departure from the whirlwind new-fangled
world of battery minerals, green energy and new materials, this
month IM takes a look at some of the more
established markets in the industrial minerals industry.
With both overall refractories demand and
specific consumption per tonne of steel on the decline
(pp26-27), producers of refractory grades of magnesia
are under pressure to think of ways of riding out this
As Josie Shillito, Reporter, explains,
for many companies this means shifting their positions to focus
on higher margin products, beef up their service offerings or
even look at new markets altogether
The ability of businesses to make the switch
comes down to corporate agility, forward thinking and in many
cases having the funds available to direct spending into
R&D for new customer-led products – a tall order,
when margins are already being squeezed.
These shifts within the industry do not preclude
capacity expansions, even though supply of magnesia is
generally outstripping demand in most industries, as companies
and countries look to lock down captive supplies of the
In Russia, a country that has historically relied
on imports to meet both its magnesia and refractory materials
needs, action is being taken to develop its vast magnesite
reserves. Vladislav Vorotnikov,
IM Correspondent, this month
takes a look at the various magnesite mining projects underway
in Russia, including new plants by leading producer, Magnezit
Group, and efforts to produce amorphous magnesium oxide from
recycled mineral wastes (pp38-40).
The silent treatment
While the global population may have enough steel
and paint to be going on with for now, one resource that
remains precious and in need of conservation is water.
According to the United Nations, around 2m tonnes
of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste is spewed into the
world’s waterways every day, putting pressure on
water treatment systems to ensure safe drinking water and
healthy aquatic environments.
In this issue, IM’s
Chief Reporter, Liz Gyeke, examines how industrial
minerals are widely used in the water treatment industry and
what challenges and new technologies are emerging as the
planet’s growing number of residents demand more
from this finite resource (pp45-49).
In other areas of focus this month,
IM Consultant, Ian Wilson, gives an
overview of the ground calcium carbonate industry in Asia,
looking at how falling demand for paper in China has created a
situation of surplus capacity, while
IM’s Deputy Editor, Kasia
Patel, delves into the issue of mental health among mining
industry workers in Australia, where a recent spate of suicides
has prompted a government-supported response to the issue.
*Siobhan Lismore-Scott is on maternity