Fluorspar 2015: Role reversal in Asian markets to drive future trends

By Shruti Salwan
Published: Thursday, 22 October 2015

China becoming less reliable global supplier resulting in Southeast Asian producers seeking to fill void; India looks to become more self-sufficient.

Falling exports of acid-grade fluorspar (acidspar) from China and increased domestic consumption have raised concerns over the country’s position as a significant future supplier to the world market, IM learned at the Fluorspar 2015 Conference in Marrakech, Morocco.

airconditioning in china_Niall Kennedy  
Rising demand for air conditioning and other fluorochemical end markets is causing more of China's fluorspar production to be consumed internally. (Source: Niall Kennedy).
This trend is being seized on as an opportunity by emerging players from Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.

Industry experts attending the conference indicated a possible role reversal in the Asian fluorspar supply chain, as China’s imports surge on rising local demand for fluorochemicals.

"We sold only [low] quantities of acidspar to Japan, the Republic of Korea and India, while there were no exports to US this year," Weston Liu, president of Commercial Metals in China (CMC), said.

The strangulation of exports has also dented India’s reliance on China. India was a major buyer of Chinese material until 2013, but the country is now switching to more reliable supplies, sourced mainly from Thailand, followed by South Africa, Kenya and smaller volumes from Vietnam.

India continues to be a beacon of hope for the struggling fluorspar industry, as the country is likely to register an average increase of 6% per annum in its consumption of R22 – an important fluorspar-based refrigerant for the air conditioning market – from 2016.

However, India’s overall fluorspar consumption is likely to decline by 20% next year, PS Haridas, vice president for supply chain development at India-based Navin Fluorine International Ltd, said in his presentation, mainly because of reduced demand from the steel industry.

Navin is in a joint venture with Gujarat Fluorochemicals Ltd and Gujarat Mineral Development Corp. to develop a fluorspar beneficiation project to supply acidspar and metallurgical grade fluorspar (metspar) for its own consumption. 

The project is expected to come on stream in the next three years and will see further reductions in imports from China into India. At present, China accounts for 55% of India’s fluorspar demand, down from 68% in 2013.

CIF prices for acidspar (97% CaF2) into India stand at $260/tonne, with imports from China now reported to be around $230/tonne, compared to $380/tonne in 2013 and $320/tonne in 2014, Haridas said.