The andalusite market is facing a situation of short supply
in 2017 following production issues in South Africa and Peru,
the two leading origins of the mineral, IM
While andalusite has been characterised by broad balance
between supply and demand in recent years, the coming months
appear to be holding availability issues for customers.
Bad weather conditions brought about temporary production
halts in South Africa and Peru, which together account for most
of global andalusite supply.
Both countries were hit by heavy rain and flooding, affecting
operations in mining areas.
In South Africa, the single largest supplier, mines could
not be accessed between December and February. Imerys and
Andalusite Resources are the two main producers active in the
In Peru, the other leading producer other than South Africa,
flooding also took place in the period between February and
April, local sources confirmed to IM.
"Production suffered almost three months of stoppage," the
Peru-based source told IM. It is understood
that over 10,000 tonnes of material could not be produced
during the temporary halt of operations.
Suppliers resorted to existing stocks to cover immediate
shipments, but inventories are now reported to be completely
Production has now restarted in both countries, but it is
taking time for mines to resume full capacity, while delays
have been reported on shipments booked for Q1 and Q2.
A European trader spoke to IM of "an
incredible shortage" of andalusite around at the moment,
following the weather issues. "There are clear issues in
deliveries, and delays in fulfilling contracts," he added.
A consumer of andalusite based in South-east Asia told
IM he had managed to have only one container
(20 tonnes) of material shipped in May, with delivery
expected to take one month.
The consumer was informed by his supplier that some mine
facilities were damaged by the flooding and required repair
IM is currently tracking prices for South African
andalusite, 57-858% Al2O3, at a range of
€240-290/tonne FOB South Africa, according to assessments
on 1 June.
While prices have remained stable over the past months
– mainly due to the long-term contracts covering
delivery in 2017 – sources maintain that the market
may face an upward trend if the supply issues were to
"Prices didn’t change, but that’s
only because of ongoing contractual obligations," one trader
told IM. "This will come to have an impact."
A second market participant trading in andalusite noted that
the euro-rand exchange rate can affect prices once contracts
come up for renewal.
"If the [South African] rand strengthens against the euro,
export prices will have to be increased accordingly to
maintain the seller’s margins," he told
Bauxite buyers turn to andalusite
Additional demand for andalusite volumes is also coming from
bauxite consumers who are finding it hard to secure their
primary material of choice, IM has learnt.
With bauxite availability getting shorter in China following
the closure of mining operations amid the ongoing environmental
controls, a number of refractory customers using bauxite are
seeking, where possible, to source andalusite in
"For some specific refractory applications, you can swap
bauxite and andalusite. Since bauxite is getting expensive and
short, customers are trying to shift to andalusite," the first
At the same time, it will be hard for these buyers to secure
volumes following the andalusite production issues, he
Suppliers will be required to cover contracts from their
existing customers first, with little left available for
further sale to new buyers, IM was told.
A supplier added: "We can see additional demand, either from
new customers coming to us or from existing customers asking
for higher volumes."
The second European trader said: "It will be impossible to
meet even standard demand from ordinary customers, without even
taking into account the new demand flow from bauxite
This article was first published
online on 1