Global resources and production of magnesite

By IM Staff
Published: Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Although prices and demand for magnesia are dwindling in line with slowing worldwide consumption of refractories, Ian Wilson*, Consultant, discusses how new high purity sources of magnesite are being developed to target markets that require the best quality material.

Figure 1: Resources of magnesite of 13bn tonnes

Mag1  

Source: Ian Wilson

By Ian Wilson

Global resources of magnesite are presently 13bn tonnes, spread between 30 countries, with China, North Korea and Russia accounting for 70% of this total. Macrocystalline (sparry) type magnesite accounts for 93% of the resources and cryptocrystalline (amorphous) magnesite for the remaining 7%.    

Worldwide production of magnesia, or magnesium oxide (MgO), including caustic calcined magnesia (CCM), deadburned magnesia (DBM) and fused magnesia (FM) in 2014 was estimated as 14.79m tonnes, with China accounting for 9.79m tonnes, or 66%, of this figure, and the rest of the world for 5m tonnes, or 34%.    

Types of magnesite

Table 1: Global resources of magnesite

Country

Resources (million tonnes)

Afghanistan

31

Albania

1.3

Australia

628

Austria

30

Brazil

862

Canada

64

China

3,439

Egypt

5

Greece

30

India

304.4

Iran

2.4

Kazakhstan

5

Kosovo

8

Mongolia

3.1

Nepal

66

Nigeria

20

North Korea

3,000

Pakistan

12

Philippines

6.4

Poland

12

Romania

2

Russia

2,745

Saudi Arabia

44.7

Serbia

13.8

Slovakia

1,240

South Africa

18

Spain

205

Turkey

162

Ukraine

5

US

66

TOTAL

13,031

Source: Ian Wilson

Magnesium is the eighth most abundant element in the world, constituting about 2% of the Earth’s crust, and is the third most plentiful element dissolved in seawater, averaging a concentration of 0.12%. 

As mentioned above, magnesite (magnesium carbonate, or MgCO3) occurs in two main types: macrocrystalline, hosted in carbonate rocks, is fine to coarse grained with crystals up to the size of several centimetres; cryptocrystalline magnesite is hosted in ultramafic rocks, such as peridotite-serpentinite rock, and has very fine-grained crystals in the range of 1-10 µm.

A less common type is cryptocrystalline magnesite formed in freshwater sediments. Only naturally forming magnesite rock (MgCO3) with a theoretical maximum MgO content of 47.6% is considered in this article. 

Magnesite resources

Magnesite resources from 30 countries are shown in Table 1. Other countries not included in the list, such as Bolivia, Bulgaria, Colombia, New Zealand, Tanzania, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, have occurrences of magnesite, but figures for these resources are not available. Three countries account for 70% of the resources, with six countries making up 91% of this and the remaining 23 countries for 9%, as shown in Figure 1.  

Six countries have magnesite resources of over 500m tonnes. These are, in descending order by resource size: China, North Korea, Russia, Slovakia, Brazil and Australia. 

Other notable deposits exist in North America, India, New Zealand and parts of Africa and the Middle East. Magnesite deposits and some producing companies in Europe are shown in
Figure 2.

Magnesite production

Global production of magnesia from magnesite in 2014 was estimated at 14.79m tonnes, with a split of 5.83m tonnes (39%) CCM, 7.19m tonnes (49%) DBM and 1.77m tonnes (12%) FM, as shown in Table 2.

China

China has 26% of global resources of magnesite, with 66%, or 14.79m tonnes, of worldwide production. It also produces of 73% of the world’s CCM, 53% of its DBM and 90% of its FM, and 65% of global refractories output. The main areas for magnesite mining and production in Liaoning province are Dashiqiao, Haicheng, Xiuyan and Fengcheng (Figure 3). All magnesite deposits in Liaoning province are macrocrystalline types. 

Out of the three main types of magnesia produced in China, the three grades of DBM collectively account for 40% of output, with CCM at 44% and FM making up 16%.In China, magnesia grades are based on the percentage MgO level. The country produces CCM at 90% minimum MgO, and three grades of DBM, at 90% minimum MgO, 95% minimum MgO (middle grade) and 96% minimum MgO (high purity), as well as FM at 97-98% minimum MgO, as shown in Table 3.

 
 
 
 


Table 2: Global output of CCM, DBM and FM in 2014 (China vs rest of the world)

Product

China 
(million tonnes)

Rest of the world (million tonnes)

Total 
(million tonnes)

% China

% Rest of 
the world

CCM

4.28

1.55

5.83

73

27

DBM

3.92

3.27

7.19

55

45

FM

1.59

0.18

1.77

90

10

Total

9.79

5.00

14.79

66

34

Source: Industry sources and China data from CCCMC 2015. Data for China is from various sources including CCCMC and China Non-Metallic Minerals Industry Association (CNMIA) which both produced reports in March 2015. 

Table 3: Split of magnesia products by grade in China in 2014

Grade

% MgO

Tonnage ('000 tonnes)

CCM

90 min

4,278

DBM

90 min

2,098

DBM - middle grade

95 min

736

DBM - high purity

96 min

1,086

FM

97-98 min

1,593

Total

9,791

Source: CCCMC, March 2015

Figure 2: Magnesite deposits and some producing companies in Europe

Mag2
Figure 3: Four magnesite producing areas in Liaoning province, China  Figure 4: Export quotas of magnesia from China 2006-H1 2015 (tonnes)
 Mag3  Mag4
 Source: Ian Wilson  Source: CCCMC

The growth of Chinese magnesia exports has been explosive, both in terms of volume and the number of companies producing and sending material out of the country. Before 1980, China only had only one refractories supplier – China Minmetals Corp. – with exports totalling 125,000 tpa. Today, there are more than 1,000 Chinese export companies, with peak export volumes reaching 2m tpa.

The quota system for exporting magnesia from China is still in force, with tonnages from 2006 to H1 2015 in shown in Figure 4. In 2006, 85 companies had quotas for export compared to 60 companies for the first half of 2015. 

Table 4: Export and imports of magnesia from China in 2014

Exports of magnesia from China in 2014

Product

Volume 

('000 tonnes)

Growth rate

Value 2014

Average unit price 

($/tonne)

2014

2013

%

$m

2014

2013

CCM

346.5

309.5

11.95

72.1

208

217

DBM

663.2

475.7

39.47

186.5

281

296

FM

369.2

302.1

22.2

213.5

578

628

TOTAL

1378.9

1087.3

472.1

Imports of magnesia into China in 2014

Product

Volume 

('000 tonnes)

Growth rate

Value 2014

Average unit price 

($/tonne)

2014

2013

%

$m

2014

2013

CCM

128.1

109.9

16.56

21.3

166

176

DBM

27.9

19.1

43,07

6.3

227

260

FM

7.6

3.8

102,5

2.4

309

334

TOTAL

163.6

132.8

30.0


Source: CCCMC, March 2015 

The top four exporting companies so far this year were: Liaoning Jiyai Metals & Minerals Co. Ltd; Haicheng Huayu Group & Export Co. Ltd; Haicheng Huying Trade Co. Ltd; and Jia Chen Group Co. Ltd. These collectively accounted for 35% of the Chinese magnesia quota for the first six months of this year. As Figure 4 shows, in 2009 during the global economic recession, only first half quotas were placed.    

Exports and imports of magnesia to and from China in 2013 and 2014 are shown in Table 4. Volumes have increased from 2013-2014, with a reduction in average unit price, expressed as $/tonne.

Table 5: Main export destinations for magnesia from China in 2014

Destination

Volume

Value

Average price/tonne

'000 tonnes

Growth (%)

'000 tonnes

Growth (%)

$

Growth (%)

US

273

-2.3

84,397

-4.9

309.1

-2.7

EU

264

-

102,367

-

387.6

-

Japan

233

11.22

80,057

9.1

343.6

-1.9

South Korea

61

-5.63

22,860

-14.2

374.8

-9.1

Russia

35

17.88

19,416

9.1

554.7

-7.5


Source: CCCMC

China exported magnesia to 79 countries in 2014, with the top five destinations being the US, European Union (EU), Japan, South Korea and Russia (details shown in Table 5). Export volumes to Japan and Russia increased last year, while shipments to the US and South Korea decreased, with all average prices less than they were in 2013.

Regional prices in Liaoning province and FOB China prices for export are shown for FM in Table 6, for DBM in Table 7 and for CCM in Table 8.    

Table 6: Regional prices (ex-works and FOB) in China for FM, May 2015

City

% MgO

Ca:Si ratio

Price/tonne ex-works

Price/tonne FOB China

Rmb

$ (6.2 rate conversion)

$

Dashiqiao

97 min

Ca:Si=2:1

2,450

395

580

97 min

Ca:Si=1:1

2,150

347

530

98 min

Ca:Si=2:1

3,900

629

 -

Haicheng

97 min

Ca:Si=2:1

2,450

395

97 min

Ca:Si=1:1

2,100

339

540

98 min

Ca:Si=2:1

3,900

629

Xiuyan

97 min

Ca:Si=2:1

2,550

411

97 min

Ca:Si=1:1

2,200

355

540

98 min

Ca:Si=2:1

4,000

645

 -

Fencheng

97 min

Ca:Si=2:1

-

-

590

98.2 min

Ca:Si=2:1

-

-

770


Table 7: Regional prices (ex-works and FOB) in China for DBM, May 2015 

City

Product

% MgO

Size (mm)

Price/tonne ex-works

Price/tonne FOB China

Rmb

$ (6.2 rate conversion)

$

Dashiqiao

DBM

90 min

3 to 15

680

110

120

Mid-grade

95 min

0 to 30

900

145

300

High purity

97 min

0 to 30

1,350

218

380

Haicheng

DBM

90 min

3 to 15

680

110

220

Mid-grade

95 min

0 to 30

870

140

290

High purity

97 min

0 to 30

1,300

210

370

Xiuyan

DBM

90 min

3 to 15

700

113

-

Mid-grade

95 min

0 to 30

950

153

-

High purity

97 min

0 to 30

1,450

234

-


Table 8: Regional prices (ex-works and FOB) in China for CCM, May 2015 

City

Product

% MgO

Size

Pric/tonne ex-works

Price/tonne FOB China

Rmb

$ (6.2 rate conversion)

$

Dahiqiao

CCM

90 min

200 mesh

520

84

205

Haicheng

CCM

90 min

200 mesh

510

82

215

Xiuyan

CCM

90 min

200 mesh

650

105

225


Table 9: Chemistry of the Krasnoyarsk and Satka magnesites 

Area/Region

Grade

MgO

SiO2

CaO

Fe2O3

Nigneangarsk/

High

47-48

0.25-0.35

0.47-0.55

0.10-0.15

Krasnoyarsk

Medium

46-47

0.25-0.75

0.55-0.70

0.10-0.15

Satka/Chelyabinsk

44-47

0.6-2.5

0.8-2.0

0.8-1.0

Source: Magnezit Group

Pricing of Chinese magnesia

The regional prices (ex-works) for early August 2015 are much the same as for May 2015, with slightly higher prices for high purity DBM (97% min MgO at 0-30mm). For FM (98% min MgO, 0-30mm and Ca:Si=2:1), prices in August were slightly lower than they were in May this year. CCM prices have remained flat since April 2015.

Kamaudo magnesite deposit

A deposit of microcrystalline magnesite at Kamaudo, Tibet, was originally targeted by Haicheng Huayin Group and the Rioche County Government, which planned to develop the site in 2008.    

The Tibet Xiangchen Magnesium Co. was founded to proceed with the venture and a report by the Tibetan government published in June 2013 indicated that construction of CCM plant at Kamaudo was completed in 2009.   

Table 9: Chemistry of the Krasnoyarsk and Satka magnesites 

Area/Region

Grade

MgO

SiO2

CaO

Fe2O3

Nigneangarsk/

High

47-48

0.25-0.35

0.47-0.55

0.10-0.15

Krasnoyarsk

Medium

46-47

0.25-0.75

0.55-0.70

0.10-0.15

Satka/Chelyabinsk

44-47

0.6-2.5

0.8-2.0

0.8-1.0

Source: Magnezit Group 

Puyang Refractories Co. Ltd (Tibet Hezhong Guangye) acquired Xiangchen Magnesium in October 2014. Hezhong Guangye is the majority shareholder, with a 55% stake in the venture, while Huayin Group holds the remaining 45%. 

The chemistry of the Kamaudo magnesite is very pure, with an MgO content of 48.47%, SiO2, CaO of 0.55%, Fe2O3, Al2O3 at 0.02% and LOI of 50.74%.  The deposit’s magnesite resources are estimated at 120m tonnes, with 57m tonnes of recoverable reserves. Huayin Group in Haicheng has an liquid petroleum gas (LPG) LPG high temperature shaft kiln for producing FM. Using Kamaudo magnesite from Tibet, the company has produced 99.9% MgO FM with <0.001% Fe2O3, <0.001% SiO2 and <0.05% CaO, which will be suitable for application in plasma display panels (PDP).

Mag5  

Figure 5: View of the Kirgitesik magnesite 
deposit in Lower Angara, Krasnoyarsk. 
(Source: Magnezit Group)

Russia: Magnezit Group

A significant recent development in high quality magnesite resources has been the launch of trademarked Russian Magnezit – a new flagship line of high quality magnesia products from Russia-based Magnezit Group, which has two main centres of mining and production in the Satka, Chelyabinsk region and a more recent branch of the group in Lower Angara, Razdolinsk settlement, in the country’s Krasnoyarsk Territory in central Russia. 

The Lower Angara production site is in the vicinity of high quality deposits of magnesite and in 2012, Magnezit commissioned a new crushing-and-sorting complex there. 

Based on the high quality magnesite in the Lower Angara area and the capabilities of the new plant, material produce is being sold under its trademarked Russian Magnezit line for manufacturing high performance refractory products. Russian Magnezit FM has an MgO content of 97% and a Ca:Si ratio of 2:1 and a high degree of crystal size consistency.

Proved and probable magnesite reserves in the area are more than 110m tonnes pure crystalline magnesite and further exploration and evaluation of the deposit is being carried out.  Mines in the area were originally referred to as the Goluboye and Yekaterinski sites of the Kirgiteiski and Talski deposits. All of the deposits are macrocrystalline types of magnesite. A view of the Kirgitesik magnesite deposit is shown in Figure 5.

At IM’s MagMin 2013 conference in Oslo, Norway, Dr Dmitry Borzov, managing director of Magnezit Group Europe, gave a presentation covering the development of the company’s production site at Lower Angara. He outlined a strategy to create a large industrial complex for processing of 200,000 tpa CCM and 50,000 tpa FM at the Razdolinsk Periclase Plant, with Sibirskiy Magnezit Co. mining the magnesite from surface pits.

The low levels of silica, calcium and iron at the Lower Angara deposit make the ore suitable for producing high quality CCM and FM, with levels up to 98.5% MgO. The chemistry of the Krasnoyarsk and Chelyabinsk regions are shown in Table 9. Capacities of CCM, DBM and FM at Magnezit’s Satka and Krasnoyarsk areas are in Table 10.

Table 10: Capacities of CCM, DBM and FM at Magnezit’s Satka and Krasnoyarsk areas

Area

Products

Type Of Kiln

Capacity 
('000 Tonnes)

Satka

CCM

Multi-hearth (Polysius)

100

DBM 94, 95, 97

Shaft kiln (Polysius) No 1 (since 2009)

70

Shaft kiln (Polysius) No 2

80

FM

Satka old melt plant after upgrade

50

Satka new melt plant

100

Satka capacity

400

Krasnoyarsk

CCM

Shaft kiln no 1

50

Shaft kiln No 2

50

Multi-hearth (Polysius)

100

FM

6 furnaces after upgrade

50

Krasnoyarsk capacity

250

Total Satka and Krasnoyarsk capacities

650

Source: Magnezit Group

The two shaft kilns at the Lower Angara production site are shown in Figure 6 and a view of a batch of big bags of Russian Magnezit FM being prepared for transportation from Lower Angara is shown in Figure 7.

\
Mag7   Mag6  
Figure 7: Preparing big bags of Russian 
Magnezit FM for transportation. (Source: Magnezit Group)
Figure 6: Two shaft kilns for CCM production at Magnezit’s Lower Angara production site, Krasnoyarsk. (Source: Magnezit Group)  

Turkey: Kumas

Turkish magnesia supplier Kumas Manyezit Sanayi AS is based in Eskisehir, south of Istanbul in western Turkey. Gozde Holding Co. has a 51% controlling share in the company, while other partners collectively hold a combined 49% stake.  

Table 11: Mineral resources and reserves of Kumas 

Mineral status

Category

Ore (millions of tonnes)

Contained magnesite (millions of tonnes) *

Mineral resources

Measured and indicated

57.5

36.66

Mineral reserves

Proved and probable

69.64

44.39

Total

Resources and reserves

127.14

81.05

*Contained magnesite is the final beneficiated feed material to rotary/shaft kilns (Source: Kumas)

Kumas controls 12 major mining areas, containing more than 60 magnesite deposits. For nine of these areas, almost 1,500 boreholes have been drilled and tested to date. The company’s mineral resources and reserves, calculated to JORC guidelines, are shown in Table 11.

Kumas’ magnesite deposits are all cryptocrystalline, found in veins and stockworks. Processing the magnesite involves separation by hand picking whitish magnesite and greenish serpentine. Following blasting, there can be 50% whitish and 50% greenish waster serpentine (this ratio varies from veins and stockworks). The next stage is crushing and magnetting, which removes more of the serpentine. Further crushing is carried out in the main plant with drying, magnetting and optical sorting. For mining of a particular stockwork in the Ballic Regions, 22% of feed material will be generated, with 78% waste consisting mainly of serpentine.  

Table 12: Production of crude magnesite and ore concentrate 2011-2015 ('000 tonnes)

Magnesite production

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Capacity

Actual

Capacity

Actual

Capacity

Actual

Capacity

Actual

Capacity

Programme

Kumas mine

Crude magnesite

490

523

549

643

633

480

800

700

850

760

Ore concentrated

368

371

385

350

450

360

650

500

600

550

Tavsanli mine

Crude magnesite

-

22

60

55

138

138

200

100

200

150

Ore concentrate 

-

5

40

42

150

110

150

70

150

105

Source: Kumas

At Kumas’ Kutahya plant in western Turkey, the company has three rotary kilns. Production of magnesite from Kumas’ two active mining areas – Kumas and Tavsanli – is shown in Table 12, with capacity and actual tonnages for 2011-2014 and programmes for production in 2015. 

Production of CCM, DBM and EFM from the company’s Kumas and Tavsanli plants is shown in Table 13 for 2011-2014, together with the programme for 2015.    

Kumas’ capacity for refractory brick and monolithic production in 2011 was 143,000 tonnes, comprising 93,000 tonnes for brick and 50,000 for monolithics. The company’s 2015 capacity stands as 180,000 tonnes, consisting of 120,000 tonnes brick and  60,000 tonnes monolithic. 

Table 13: Production of CCM, DBM and EFM from Kumas and Tavsanli plant, 2011-2015 ('000 tonnes)

Kumas and Tasvsanli plants

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Capacity

Actual

Capacity

Actual

Capacity

Actual

Capacity

Actual

Capacity

Programme

Kumas plant

DBM-CCM- DBD

180

174

180

152

260

212

260

211

260

233

EFM

17.5

12.3

17.5

13.5

17.5

16.5

17.5

17.5

40

37.5

Tavsanli plant

Rotary kiln CCM

11

0

20

13

20

13

20

10

20

18

1.Shaft kiln CCM

10

2

10

6

10

5

10

7

10

7

2.Shaft kiln CCM

30

0

30

1

30

17

30

17

30

25

Total

248.5

188.3

257.5

185.5

347.5

263.5

337.5

262.5

360

320.5

Source: Kumas

Acknowledgements:

Professor Wen Lu (China)

Dr Dmitry Borzov (Magnezit Group)

M. Şevket Erol (general manager, Kumas, Turkey)

Vasili Nicoletopoulos (Natural Resources GP, Greece)

Industrial Minerals and many others.

*Ian Wilson is a consultant based in the UK.