The industrial minerals market was lacking festive cheer as
the industry approached December, with forecasts for yet
another tough year in 2016 setting the tone for most
The stubbornly weak oilfield market looks likely to force a
reduction in barite (barytes) prices sooner rather than later
and both graphite and fluorspar prices could come down further
before the end of the year.
Stable markets like calcium carbonate have been subject to
their customary round of increases while soda ash contract
negotiations in the US have resulted in only slight gains for
More positively, lithium prices have increased again in
China and it looks as though the rare earths market may be in
for some product-specific turnarounds.
India’s Andhra Pradesh Mining Development Corp.
(APMDC) is gearing up to launch a new tender for barite mining
and exports, as the initial six month tenure of the last round
of auctions drew to a close on 30 November.
After fumbling an initial attempt to sell off mineral rights
at the end of April this year, Hyderabad-based APMDC
successfully concluded the tender to mine and ship barite in
the southeast Indian state at the end of May.
Speaking to IM in November,
APMDC’s general manager, Sri Ramakrisna, hinted
that the next round of contracts would be for a period of one
year but declined to comment on the floor price of the tender.
He admitted that the barite industry is facing tough market
conditions in light of stagnating oil prices and declining
production of crude oil.
The forthcoming bidding round is expected to make barite
available on an FOB basis from three Indian ports to attract
international bidders. Bidding in the last auction was based on
None of the successful bidders which participated in the
latest tender were prepared to comment publicly on what they
considered to be appropriate benchmarks for barite in the next
auction, but most confessed to IM privately
that there should be a downward revision of around 12-15% in
Barite suppliers to European oilfield markets have said they
expect prices for the drilling mineral to fall further in the
coming months, in line with shrinking rig counts.
"The messages within the oilfield industry are still not too
good (…) they expect the current low prices of oil will
last for an even longer period than initially expected," one
source told IM.
IM’s prices for Indian barite
stand at $158-171/tonne (API, lump, CIF Gulf Coast);
$120-130/tonne (drilling grade, OCMA/API, bulk, SG 4.2, FOB
Chennai); $158-175/tonne (API, ground, big bags, 1.5 tonnes,
FOB Chennai); and $110-125/tonne (drilling grade, underground
lump, OCMA/API, bulk, SG 4.1, FOB Chennai).
Huber Carbonates LLC is to up its prices for industrial
ground calcium carbonate (GCC) by an average of 5-10% from
December 2015, or as contracts allow.
The company, a subsidiary of JM Huber Corp., said that while
it continues to "focus on minimising the inflationary impact"
on its ground calcium carbonate business, cost increases in
materials, packaging, freight, regulatory compliance, labour
and capital investments had led it to raise prices.
IM’s prices for GCC currently
stand at $27-30/s.ton (50-22microns, FOB US), $56-116/s.ton
(22-10 microns, FOB US), $188-205/s.ton (3 microns (untreated),
FOB US), $300-441/s.ton (stearate coated, 1.1-0.7 microns, FOB
US) and $220-320/s.ton (1.1-0.7 microns (untreated), FOB
Fluorspar prices have been trading at the lower end of
IM’s ranges in November, as a
result of Chinese suppliers reaching the market with new
low-priced offers as they aim to clear stockpiles ahead of
winter mine closures.
Stagnant demand conditions are expected to continue over the
coming months, while supply shows no signs of letting up.
Industry sources confirmed to IM that very
few suppliers have been able to secure contracts at the higher
ends of published price ranges, while most have been forced to
lower offers by around 10% for the coming year.
Consumption levels in the acid grade fluorspar (acidspar)
market remain depressed as sales struggle in the major markets
of Europe and the US, while trades into India – one of
the few areas of growth in 2015 – have also
Producers have continued to settle longer-term contracts for
2015, however widespread excess supply is giving consumers
leverage in negotiations.
The price of acidspar (97% CaF2, wet filtercake, CIF,
Rotterdam) is currently between $270 and $300/tonne, 13% down
from January 2015, with some sources reporting deals below
Meanwhile Chinese acidspar prices (97% CaF2, wet
filtercake, FOB, China) continue to fluctuate around the
$260/tonne mark, however some Chinese producers have been
willing to offer significant discounts, reportedly doing deals
at levels as low as $220/tonne, IM
In the metallurgical grade fluorspar (metspar) sector,
consumption levels are similarly stable with few signs of
growth in industrial end markets.
The price of metspar (min 85% CaF2, CIF) from
China to Europe is currently between $290 and $310/tonne.
Prices for natural graphite are likely to face further
downwards pressure in the near future, as China’s
dominance over the finer mesh flake graphite market, coupled
with stagnant demand, weigh on the industry.
Graphite trading levels are presently stable, but an
abundance of finer mesh material from China and low-cost flake
from Madagascar and Russia have caused variations in the value
of products with similar purities.
Sources told IM at the beginning of
November that price drops across larger mesh products have been
reported out of China and into Europe, however the value of
lower purity grades has fallen more than higher purity on the
Downward pricing pressure is being compounded by
exceptionally low offers from some Chinese players, who are
reported to be evading industry taxes by failing to produce
invoices or mislabelling products in order to secure regular
Growing pressure to reduce these already low offers is
likely to widen flake graphite price ranges from China. Today,
the average price of flake graphite (94-97% C, +80 Mesh, FOB,
Qingdao, China) stands at $900/tonne, however industry sources
have begun to report prices below these levels.
In the amorphous graphite market, the more rigid nature of
supply has seen prices stagnate in the face of ongoing weak
demand levels. Price levels have been relatively stable for
much of H2 2015 and although production is likely to slow
approaching winter, sufficient supplies remain to prevent this
causing significant upward price movements.
Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM) said in mid-November that
iodine prices had fallen further in the third quarter of 2015
to just below $28/kg.
While volumes were up by around 4% to almost 7,000 tonnes
for the nine months to the end of September, the company said
that a drop off in revenue was due to the fall in iodine
prices, which are now 25% lower than they were a year ago.
SQM expects market growth of 3% for 2015 compared to 2014,
with demand boosted by X-ray contrast media and liquid crystal
display (LCD) televisions as well as the Asian plastics
The company’s iodine segment accounted for
$60.1m of total revenues, 24.6% below sales of $79.8m in Q3
IM’s iodine prices (crystal,
99.5% min, drums) stand at $27.5-32/kg on both spot and
Chinese producer Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd increased
the price of its lithium carbonate twice in October, with a
second revision at the end of the month increasing the sale
value of its material by nearly 17%, from Chinese renminbi
(Rmb) 60,000/tonne ($9,470/tonne*) to Rmb 70,000/tonne
($11,049/tonne). Ganfeng had implemented an earlier increase
from Rmb 55,000/tonne ($8,681/tonne) in mid-October. The latest
increase means prices are now around 67% higher than they were
at the start of this year, when Ganfeng’s lithium
carbonate cost around Rmb 42,000/tonne ($6,629/tonne).
Following Gangfeng’s lead, local rivals Sichuan
Xingsheng Lithium Industry Co. Ltd and Sichuan State Lithium
Material Co. also raised their prices to Rmb 68,000/tonne
Industry commentators cited rising demand for battery grade
lithium carbonate for electric vehicles (EVs) and the
of tightening supply in China
for the increases. This situation means that prices could rise
further in the foreseeable future, sources said.
Prices for Chinese lithium hydroxide (LiOH) also rose in
October as strong demand gave local producers the confidence to
IM understands that prices for battery
grade LiOH in China stood at around Chinese renminbi (Rmb)
52,000-56,000/tonne ($8,187-8,818/tonne) at the end of
November, up from Rmb 45,000-48,000/tonne ($7,086-7,558/tonne)
at the beginning of October.
LiOH prices in other regions are reported to be stable at
present, meanwhile. Sources suggested to IM
that South American lithium producers, which account for the
world’s largest proportion of lithium supply from
low cost brine operations, may be keeping prices low to remain
SQM meanwhile reported in mid-November that revenues for its
lithium segment were up 18.7% for the quarter to $59.7m from
$50.3m in Q3 2014, thanks to higher sales and prices.
The company expects lithium carbonate demand for 2015 to be
5% higher than 2014, but noted that new supply scheduled to
come online this year has been delayed.
"Prices continue to feel upward pressure, accordingly, our
average prices for the nine month period ended September 30,
2015 exceeded $5,700 [/tonne], an increase of almost 9% when
compared to the same period last year," the company said.
SQM’s CEO, Patricio de Solminihac noted during
a conference call following the release of the financials that
the delayed entry of new participants onto the market had meant
that supply was not at the level anticipated by the market this
IM’s prices for lithium
carbonate (min 99-99.5% LiC2O3, large
contracts, del continental US) currently stand at
Next year’s contract prices for US soda ash are
reported to have been agreed at an average of $5/s.ton
($5.51/tonne) above this year’s prices.
Industry reports, confirmed by IM,
indicated that the increases were lower than some US suppliers
had hoped for. In July, US chemicals producer Tronox Ltd
increased its soda ash prices by $12/s.ton ($13.22/tonne),
along with three other locally-based rivals which produce
natural soda ash from Wyoming’s trona
Weaker overseas sales due to slowing demand and rising
competition from Chinese synthetic soda ash were highlighted
among the reasons for the more modest than anticipated
Buyers have reportedly sold around half of their slated
production for 2016, but the remaining deals that are yet to be
concluded are likely to settle flat with or even lower than the
prices for contracts already agreed.
Prices for soda ash contracts in Europe are expected to roll
over next year or possibly decline slightly, one industry
commentator told IM.
IM’s prices for dense soda ash
(list price, ex-works Wyoming) stand at $270-290/s.ton
($298-320/tonne). Light material (list, bulk, FOB Wyoming) is
priced at $188-230/s.ton ($207-253/tonne).
China Northern Rare Earth Hi-Tech Group Co. Ltd announced at
the end of October that it intends to raise its guidance prices
for praseodymium-neodymium (didymium) concentrate material by
Rmb 10,000/tonne ($1,575/tonne), up 4% on previous price
In southeast China, the Ganzhou Rare Earth Association has
also raised its guidance prices for a number of rare earth
concentrates, each by Rmb 10,000/tonne ($1,575/tonne). Medium
yttrium-rich europium concentrates now stand at Rmb
180,000/tonne ($28,362/tonne); high yttrium sourced from
Longnan is now Rmb 190,000/tonne ($29,938); high yttrium from
Anyuan is now priced at Rmb 180,000/tonne ($28,362/tonne); and
low yttrium-low europium concentrate from Xunwu has been set at
Rmb 110,000/tonne ($17,332/tonne).
Since June, prices have fallen three times. While these
upward movements are the first since then, prices still stand
at between Rmb 30,000-40,000/tonne ($4,727- 6,303/tonne) below
those reported in June.
Meanwhile, the Ministry for Industry and Information
Technology (MIIT) has announced another redoubling of efforts
to deal with illegal mining for rare earths in China, which is
blamed for substantial oversupply and is a contributing factor
to low pricing conditions.
Prices for standard and premium grades of zircon had edged
downwards by the end of October,
to the dismay of many market
observers who had been predict-ing that prices would firm up
Reported information, confirmed by IM
sources, indicated that the price of Australian zircon (66% min
ZrO2) had fallen by around $10/tonne since the end
of September to around $1,030-1,060/tonne on a CIF China
Sources familiar with the Australian zircon market told
IM that the average price of zircon sand
exported from the country was around $1,010/tonne on an FOB
basis, down from $1,020/tonne previously.
Earlier this year, sources told IM that
buyers were on their guard against suppliers attempting to
leverage price increases for zircon, however October market
movements are thought to be due to sluggish downstream
conditions, rather than buyer pressure on suppliers.
*Conversions made November 2015
Full information on all
IM’s prices can be
found on the IM Prices
Database at www.indmin.com/pricesdatabase.