By Ian Wilson, Consultant*
China is the largest producer of barite (barytes) in the
world and the second biggest consumer after the US. The country
accounted for approximately 40% of global production in 2015,
which the US Geological Survey (USGS) estimates stood at 3m
tonnes. Chinese domestic barite consumption is around 1.5m
tonnes per annum (tpa), with 50% going into oil and gas
production, 40% into the chemical industry and 10% being used
for construction, counterweights and other uses. The location
of barite production and reserves in China are shown in Figure
1 with production from 2011-2015 in Table 1.
Reserves of barite in China probably total approximately
270m tonnes, although the USGS puts the figure at just 100m
tonnes, with 92.3% of production concentrated in 5 provinces
(Table 2) and 90.7% of reserves concentrated in seven provinces
Chinese barite exports decreased significantly in 2015
compared to the previous year and shipments over the first
eight months of 2016 have fallen even further. The decline
has been led by lower exports to the US. Having taken almost
2m tonnes of Chinese barite in 2012, the US had cut its
volumes to 960,000 tonnes by 2015 and in January-August
this year, has received just 380,000 tonnes.
According to the Belgium-based Barytes Association, the
largest barite suppliers in the world last year after China
were Morocco, at 14% of global production, India at 12% and the
US at 6%, with the remaining 28% coming in smaller fractions
from other countries.
|Figure 1: Location of
barite production and reserves in China. (Source: Ian
Types of barite
There are two main types of barite. Stratiform type barites
are concordant with the bedding of the host rock, which is
generally limestone or shale. Often greyish to dark-grey in
appearance and low in strontium, stratiform barite is
suitable for some chemical grades and American Petroleum
Institute (API)-grade drilling muds.
An example of dark-grey stratiform barite from the Tianyan
mine in Tianzhu, Guizhou province, is shown in Figure 2.
The other kind of barite, vein types, cross-cut the host
rock and are generally infillings within fractures and fault
lines. These barites vary in colour from white to yellowish and
are often iron-stained. Characterised by higher levels of
strontium, reflecting their origin as infillings from
solutions, these barites are suitable for API drilling muds,
chemical grades and high brightness fillers.
An example of white barite from Yanhe in Guizhou province is
shown in Figure 3.
China’s barite exports
China’s barite exports from 2012-2016
(January-August) are shown in Figure 4. Last
year’s exports declined significantly from 2014
and the tonnage for the first eight months of this year is 33%
behind the equivalent period in 2015.
The destinations of Chinese barite exports this year are
shown in Table 4 and Figure 5. A comparison of Chinese exports
from 2012 and 2016 (January-August) shows US share falling from
62% to 38% and Middle East increasing from 15% to 37% (Figure
Pricing of Chinese drilling grade and white barite from
2012-2016 (January and October) is shown in Table 5.
Prices for Chinese drilling grade barite have softened over
the past five years, from $131-135/tonne FOB China in 2012, to
$85-90/tonne this year. This is largely due to the decline in
US demand as a consequence of lower oil drilling activity, in
response to weaker oil prices. The USGS reports that, between
January and October 2015, the number of drill rigs operating in
the US fell from 1,811 to 787. The decrease in drilling
activity is estimated to have reduced domestic barite
consumption by approximately 25-30%.
Prior to 2015, India, Mexico and Morocco increased their
barite production and trade with higher exports to the US. In
2015, these countries scaled back output, mainly in response
to lower US consumption.
Up until last year, Chinese white barite prices had been
relatively stable, due to limited production. The 2015-2016
price drop is partly due to the depreciation of Chinese yuan
against US dollar.
Below are updates on how some Chinese barite companies are
dealing with the shifts in markets and prices for their
Rocky Mountains Industry Development Co.
Founded in June 2003, Rocky Mountains Industry Development
Co. Ltd specialises in mining, processing and trading
non-metallic minerals, with barite being its major business
activity. The company’s head office is in
Shenzhen, in Guangdong province, with operations in Guizhou,
Guangxi and Hunan provinces. Details of Rocky Mountains
operations are in Table 6.
Tiianzhu Chemical Mining Corp.
Tianzhu Chemical Mining Corp. was formed in 2013 as a joint
venture (JV) between Hao Hua Chemical Group, with an 87% share,
and Rocky Mountains with the remaining 13%. The companies
merged adjacent barite deposits in Tianzhu and the combined
mine is now referred to as Tianyan.
The JV’s mining licence covers 3.22km2 and
holds 11.1m tonnes of barite resources within 25% (0.80 km2) of
this area. The rest of the deposit area is earmarked for future
Tianzhu Chemical is aiming to produce 500,000 tpa barite
from the Tianyan mine, split between chemical and drilling
grades. The mine’s current capacity is 300,000
tpa, with sales of 170,000 tonnes in 2015. The company
operates bagging facilities and two Raymond Mills for
processing Tianyan barite, with a combined capacity of 100,000
tpa <200 mesh barite powder.
The main buyer of Tianyan
barite, Xinji Chemical Co., part of Hao Hua Chemical Group,
operates two barium carbonate manufacturing plants, one close
to the Tianyan mine in Tianzhu and the other in Xinji, in
Barium carbonate is manufactured from natural barium
sulphate (BaSO4) by reduction with petroleum coke, followed by
precipitation with carbon dioxide. Applications for
barium carbonate include electronic components, such as
electronic ceramics, positive temperature co-efficient (PTC)
thermistors and capacitors.
At present, Xinji Chemical consumes 200,000 tpa chemical
grade barite from a number of mines in the Tianzhu area, but
has plans to double this as it ramps up capacity. The
company’s Hebei plant is likely to start taking
more material from Tianzhu mines, owing to the deteriorating
quality of barite it currently receives from mines in Ankang,
in Shanxi province.
The specific gravity (SG) range of barite from the Tianyan
deposit is 3.90-4.35. Tianyan material containing up to 85%
BaSO4 is supplied to Xinji Chemical for producing barium
carbonate, while the bulk of material, which has an SG range of
4.10-4.25, is sold for drilling grade and the 4.25-4.35 SG
barite fraction is used for both drilling and chemical
Hong Sheng Mining Co.
Rocky Mountains owns 49% of Hong Sheng Mining Co., which
operates the Tianhui mine in Guizhou. The mine is 2km from
the Tianyan mine and has capacity of 100,000 tpa barite, with
an SG range of 4.0-4.10.
Jun Xin Mining Co.
Rocky Mountains also has 51% share in the Yanhe white barite
and fluorite (CaF2) deposit in Guizhou. The mine has a
capacity of 30,000 tpa barite but current production is just
10,000 tpa. The barite-fluorite vein is four metres wide and
jigging trials have been successful in separating most of the
barite in the ore. The SG of the barite varies from 4.25 to
4.35 and it can be transported by either river barge to port
or truck to beneficiation facilities in Guangdong.
Sanjiang barite deposit
The Sanjiang barite deposit in Guangxi is 100% controlled by
Rocky Mountains. It contains stratiform barite, dipping at
around 70-80 degrees. The mine is not yet producing but
detailed jigging trials have being carried out to improve the
SG of the barite recovered. These trials have used a feed of
3.60-3.70 SG barite, which has been crushed to a size of 0-6mm
and jigged to produce material with SG of 4.05-4.10.
Konghai Industrial Group
Rocky Mountains carried out contract mining and sales for
Hong Kong-based Konghai Industrial Group at the
latter’s Yuanling deposit in Hunan.
Yuanling’s barite occurs in veins of between 500cm
and two metres in width over a 3.2km2 area. Resources are
estimated at 12m tonnes and the barite is mainly whitish in
colour, with some iron staining. Its SG varies from 4.10 to
4.35, depending on the amount of quartz present. Iron oxide
(Fe2O3) levels are generally 0.06-0.11%, with low levels of
mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd) and other trace elements. Soluble
carbonate levels vary from 500-600 mg/L and are blended with
barite with higher soluble carbonate levels.
The mine’s processing plant has a Raymond Mill
which produces <200 mesh barite powder.
Yichang Zhongrun Barium
Industry Co. Ltd
In May this year, Yichang Zhongrun Barium Industry Co. Ltd
and Zhangjiacun Barite Ore Co. Ltd contracted Rocky Mountains
as their sole agent for exporting barite lump and milled powder
products. The agreement is valid until 1 June 2018. The
location of mine, plants and port for shipment of Yichang
Zhongrun are in Figure 7.
Yichang Zhongrun owns the Zhangjiacun barite mine and
processing plant. The Zhangjiacun mine has estimated resources
of 17m tonnes vein-type barite. The ore is mainly barite with
fluorite within limestone and the company’s
licence to mine the deposit runs for 9 years until August 2025.
Mining takes place underground over a licence area of 0.36 km2
and the ore is then taken by truck to the processing
The Zhangjiacun processing plant crushes the barite to a size
The SG of the plant feed is 3.85 and the processed product
has an SG of 4.221. Waste material with an SG of around
3.22 is stored for future processing. Once crushed, the barite
is taken by truck to a powder plant in Yidu, which produces 200
mesh barite powders.
The Yidu plant houses a 70,000 tpa Raymond Mill and a
bagging facility. Up to 10,000 tonnes of 0-6 mm barite is
loaded at Yidu and taken to Changshu via the Yangtze River to
transfer to 50,000 tonne vessels for export. In 2015, 180,000
tonnes of barite was sold from the facility, comprising 160,000
tonnes of 0-6mm bulk material and 20,000 tonnes of <200mesh
The Yinlin mine in Tianzhu has been in operation since 1996.
Shenzen Xinshike Co., which now owns Yinlin, was founded in
2003. The deposit has resources of around 1m tonnes barite and
the associated Dalong processing plant near Tongren has a
capacity of 100,000 tpa of 200 mesh and 325 mesh barite powders
with SG of 4.20-4.30. At present, however, the plant is only
operating at half capacity.Shenzhen Xinshike Co.
Rocky Wu (Shenzhen Rocky Mountains Development Co. Ltd);
Yang Bo (Yichang Zhongrun Barium Industry Co. Ltd); Professor
Wen Lu (Chengdu, China); Bill Wang (Sinobarite Mining,
Guizhou); USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries; Barite reports by
Michael Miller (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) and Michele McRae
*Ian Wilson is a UK-based industrial minerals