IM Prices June 2017

By IM Staff
Published: Friday, 07 July 2017

See article below, from the July-August issue of Industrial Minerals magazine, for market updates on price movements in various industrial minerals. Minerals featured this month include: magnesia, ilmenite,chromite, barytes,bauxite, graphite, lithium, fluorspar, alumina, soda ash, antimony trioxide.

IM’s full price listing is only published online. If you have any comments or concerns, or wish to discuss any of the grades or prices listed, please contact Barbara O’Donovan, Industrial Minerals editor


European fused magnesia prices move up

Davide Ghilotti

Prices of fused magnesia (FM) in Europe have increased in mid-June, as demand for European material has grown as a result of supply tightness in China.

The severe lack of FM available for export from China – the country that produces the largest volumes of magnesia products globally – has finally caught up with prices of European-produced material, which are now moving upwards after months of stability.

According to a 20 June IM assessment, European FM was at $640-750/tonne FOB Europe, an average increase of 23% or $130/tonne compared to $480-650/tonne, which had been in place since last year.

European FM prices had remained stable in 2017 until June despite anti-pollution related shutdown in Liaoning province, which led to an almost total stoppage of magnesia production in the province, the country’s main magnesia hub.

Chinese FM with 97% min. MgO (CA:Si 1:1) spot prices rose 13% or $55/tonne month-on-month to $455-480/tonne FOB China in April, when sellers still had some material in their stockpiles. By mid-May, Liaoning had run out of FM.

Sources said this was due to a relatively high level of inventory available in Europe, which initially delayed the upward move in prices outside China.

The price increase in the European FM market were expected for some time. Sellers and traders speaking to IM in the past month pointed to the production issues in China, and said that it would lift European prices.

"It’s only a question of time before European prices move up as well," one seller told IM in late May.

Another supplier said: "I am fully booked. Usually at this time of year orders are a bit slow, after the December-March buying period, but not this time."

A third seller told IM that he had very little product left for sale at this stage, and was seeing "robust demand" from both existing and new customers.

The price pressure seems to have so far affected only FM, which is the material in shortest supply.

Other European magnesia prices have remained stable. Calcined agricultural magnesia was unchanged at €240-300/tonne CIF European ports. Electrical-grade fused magnesia was assessed at $1,500-2,450/tonne ex-works UK.

Raw magnesite, max 3.5% SiO2 content, was also stable at €65-80/tonne FOB East Mediterranean.

Chinese production to resume

A few facilities are now in the process of restarting but magnesite mining remained limited. Consequently, high-grade magnesite raw material – needed to produce FM – is almost unattainable.

A number of Chinese magnesia suppliers have told IM for the past two months that FM was not available at all. They cautioned that, once they restart production, it may take months to reach required capacity and be able to meet new orders.

Magnesia, fused, European, FOB Europe, $/tonne
Source: Industrial Minerals 


Have ilmenite prices peaked?

Cameron Perks

Chinese ilmenite prices continued to stall in June with local producers and traders reluctant to talk on prices.

Market participants commented that the market remained unclear, with one trader informing IM that "most plants have two month’s inventory", which is placing downward pressure on ilmenite prices.

Two others told IM that "demand for ilmenite is decreasing", with one adding that they had seen almost zero sales from the bonded warehouses of the biggest players, Australia, South Africa, Senegal, Mozambique and Kenya.

Another trader commented that for ore bought from Australia for over $200/tonne CIF China during the price surge between March and early June, the same material was now struggling to find buyers at $160/tonne.

While various market participants have expressed what seems to be a hazy and pessimistic view of demand, one trader told IM that «the steep fall only affected half a dozen over-leveraged traders», who now have stock originally intended for a quick turn around, and face growing pressure from their lenders.

Ilmenite, bulk concentrates min 54% TiO2, CIF China was last assessed at $200-280/tonne on 22 June basis, compared with a range of $140-180 at the start of the year and $90-110/tonne in June 2016.

Prices for FOB Australia ilmenite held at $170-185/tonne for bulk concentrates and $170-210 for spot material, according to IM assessment.

Ilmenite bulk concentrates min 54% TiO2 CIF China 
Source: Industrial Minerals  


Chemical chromite prices slide further

Davide Ghilotti, Yoke Wong

Spot prices of chemical-grade chromite have declined further in end-June, following continued volatility in metallurgical chrome ore and persistent low demand in China.
Further pressure from the central government on the chemicals and tanning industry within China was dampening demand from chromite consumers in the country.

Chemical chromite, 46% Cr2O3, wet bulk prices fell to $220-240/tonne FOB South Africa, according to a 20 June assessment.

The benchmark pointed to a latest downward tilt of chemical material prices, compared with a previous range of $240-280/tonne.
The decline came after a few weeks of stability, following a first sharp drop seen in mid-April.

Market participants on the buying and selling side of the supply chain told IM that lack of demand was the main reason for the existing price weakness.

Since the beginning of the year, the price of chemical chromite has almost halved.

Renewed volatility in metallurgical chrome ore prices was compounding price pressure on chemical grades.

IM’s sister publication Metal Bulletin last calculated South African UG2 chrome ore index at $138/tonne CIF China, according to a 16 June assessment. The index has decreased over the past few weeks, after it dropped sharply from more than $300/tonne to $151/tonne in May.

Chemical chromite – which normally carries a $50/tonne premium over UG2 – has been following the downtrend of metallurgical grade, but sellers are seeking to uphold a higher premium.

Some sellers told IM they were hopeful demand will pick up, as they claim not much material is available. This, in their view, should support prices.

Foundry-grade material, meanwhile, continued to appear unaffected by what is happening in metallurgical and chemical grades.

Suppliers and traders speaking to IM, who had been quite frank over the difficulties they were facing with securing orders for chemical material, said that foundry was still in an overall better shape. They spoke of healthy levels of demand and firm prices.

IM’s foundry-grade chromite, 46% Cr2O3, wet bulk price stands at $410-450/tonne FOB South Africa, while lower-purity foundry material, 45.8% Cr2O3, wet bulk is at $400-440/tonne FOB South Africa.

Both grades have been unchanged since 22 December 2016.

Controls in China hit chromium chemicals

Slow demand for chemical chromite in China appears to be affected further by difficulties in the downstream markets of chromium-based chemicals.

The chromium chemicals industry was one of the many to be targeted by the Chinese government: the authorities are enforcing measures to accelerate environmentally-friendly production.

Under the measures, which were first introduced late last year, eight industries that involve heavy metal production – PVC, chromium, inorganic pigments, copper, lead/zinc, tin/antimony smelting, batteries and leather – will be inspected.

Clean production technologies will have to be implemented across these industries to meet targets set under the "Soil Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan".

Under the programme, these industries have to apply for new permits in order to continue operating. As part of the application, industries have to submit the technology patent or other intellectual property certificates, industrial and commercial business licences and other supporting documents.

The new requirements on documentation have also strained the operations of chromium chemicals plants, which faced lower demand as production was capped during environmental inspections.

"As easy as it sounds, the application for the permit will still take time," one chromite end-user told IM.

Another large end-user agreed that the new policy has resulted in demand pressure on the industry.

"The Chinese government has categorised the chromium industry as dangerous, so all the transportation is becoming troublesome," he said.

Chromite, chemical, 46% Cr2O3, wet bulk, FOB South Africa, $/tonne 
Source: Industrial Minerals   

Pricing notice: Proposed change to IM’s ATH assessment frequency

Industrial Minerals proposes to change the frequency of its ATH price assessments.

Industrial Minerals proposes to change the frequency of its ATH price assessment from weekly to monthly, with effect from 10 August 2017.

Assessments currently take place every Thursday, but following this six weeks’ consultation period, the Hydrated alumina (ATH), damp (57-60% Al2O3, 5-8% moisture) bulk, FOB refinery, $/tonne would be assessed at the same time as IM’s calcined alumina grades on the first Thursday of every month.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Industrial Minerals’ head of market reporting Yoke Wong at

Pricing notice: Proposed change to IM’s andalusite assessment frequency

Industrial Minerals proposes to change the frequency of andalusite price assessments.

Industrial Minerals proposes to change the assessment frequency of andalusite from weekly to once a year in order to reflect annual contracts.

With effect from 10 August 2017, IM proposes to update the following prices once a year, in Q4, when contracts settle:

• Andalusite, min. 57% Al2O3, FOB South Africa, €/tonne
• Andalusite, min. 57% Al2O3, CIF Europe, €/tonne

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Industrial Minerals’ head of market reporting, Yoke Wong, at


Severe rain storms hit barytes production in China’s Guizhou

Yoke Wong

Heavy rain storms battered parts of Guizhou province in China, hitting some barytes (barite) production in mid-June but operations resumed quickly following emergency repair work.
A number of cities in Guizhou province in southwest China were severely flooded with landslides destroying infrastructure, causing roads and the power supply network to collapse.  

Production facilities at major barytes producer Guizhou Saboman Micronised Mining Co. Ltd in the city of Guiding was hit by the natural disaster on 11-12 June and operations were temporarily halted. 

Guizhou Saboman has an annual barytes output of 500,000 tonnes, consisting of both drilling and paint-grade material. China is one of the biggest barytes exporters in the world and prior to this storm, production was already impacted by anti-pollution checks.      

"The plant was flooded, office building, workshops, warehouses were all inundated, resulting in damages to the machinery and equipment. The landslides have also caused walls to collapse, the water storage tank to crack," Guizhou Saboman told IM.

There were varying degrees of collapse on the road leading to the plant; electric poles and wiring within the facility and nearby had collapsed due to the storm. Company staff were trapped in the plant on the day of flooding, but immediate government rescue work led to a road being repaired on the same day, assisting evacuation work, the company said.  

Following the flooding and landslides in mid-June, Saboman has completed all repair work and the production resumed one week later, the company said.  

Although Saboman has moved most of their barytes inventory to a dry area during the flood, some stock was soaked and the material has had to be downgraded.

Despite the temporary barytes production halt in parts of Guizhou, deliveries were not impacted and prices held unchanged week-on-week.

Drilling-grade barytes unground lump (SG4.2) spot prices held at $80-90/tonne on FOB China basis, while the CIF Gulf Coast price was also unchanged at $100-110/tonne, according to IM’s assessment on 22 June.    

Paint-grade lump material was assessed at $220-240/tonne on CIF Gulf Coast basis.

However, a Chinese supplier and US-based trader have warned that strict environmental control in China is cutting barytes production, which could support prices in the near term.

Barytes, drilling grade, API unground lump, SG 4.20, FOB China, $/tonne 
Source: Industrial Minerals 


Chinese bauxite spot prices rocket higher

Yoke Wong

Chinese bauxite spot prices rocket higher in mid-June as the government targets remaining illegal calcining operations to further stamp out polluting facilities, which will slash yet more supply.  

Mining operations in major bauxite-producing regions Shanxi and Guizhou were mostly suspended in May as the central government ramped up its anti-pollution controls. Under the newly enforced measures, calcining and processing plants in Shanxi and Tianjin were also affected.  

Although the majority of plants that did not meet environmental standards were shut, some continued to operate illegally at night, two Europe-based traders told IM.

However, the Chinese environmental teams in Tianjin and Shanxi are continuing to undertake inspections in order to control pollution levels. Shanxi government announced on 15 June that it will carry out a special large-scale investigation on all operations in the province. The government has also encouraged locals to report any illegal operations.  

"Some small unlicenced producers in Xingang, Tianjin, continue to produce during the night. The Government Environmental Team in Hebei and Tianjin have been tipped off by other suppliers that this continues to happen and the government is now focused on these suppliers and their customers," one Europe-based distributor told IM.

As a result, many more plants are expected to shut down in the coming weeks, market sources said. 

Amid heightening anti-pollution control, and the resulting suspension of production, bauxite stock levels are said to be depleting quickly, which has supported prices over the past month.

Spot prices of 85% refractory-grade bauxite (85% Al2O3/2.0/3.15-3.2/0-6mm) rose to   $380-390/tonne on an FOB Xingang basis, while 86% bauxite increased to   $390-400/tonne, both grades gained $40 compared to early June, according to IM’s assessment on 15 June.

Smaller volumes of 85% bauxite were reported to have traded at above $400/tonne in Europe and Asia, but these could not be verified at the time of publication.

87% bauxite held unchanged at $400-430/tonne, 15 June, while 88% was assessed at   $430-470/tonne, up from $430-450/tonne previously, both on FOB Xingang basis.

Refractory-grade bauxite 88%/2.0/3.15-3.2 (0-6mm) FOB Xingang 
Source: Industrial Minerals 


Chinese flake graphite grade posts price uptick

Albert Li

Some of China’s large flake graphite and high-carbon products have started to post an uptick in prices late-June, as some production areas in the country were affected by adverse weather conditions and governmental scrutiny.

According to a 21 June IM assessment, the price of Chinese flake graphite, 94-97% C, +80 mesh, has increased to $730-885/tonne FOB China, from $700-855/tonne previously.  

The other Chinese graphite grades have remained unchanged.

"The price increase is mainly for large flakes like +50 and +80 mesh, high-carbon and high-purity graphite products," said Haibo Mo, the deputy general manager of Qingdao Hensen Graphite Company, a graphite producer in China with factories both in Shandong and Heilongjiang province.

"Once prices started to increase, even customers who were not in contact with us for a long time came back. Many existing customers are demanding the full orders until the end of 2017."

He stated that several reasons were behind the latest price increase, including drought in Shandong province, which restricted production. According to historic weather data, no rainfall was seen in the area of Jinan from late April to mid-June, with temperatures often above 30°C.

Additionally, output of expandable graphite - a highly processed downstream product - in China has increased a lot recently, causing source material supply (large flakes), to become less available.

Companies’ own business strategies also come into play: "When prices finally show they are beginning to rise, sellers usually stockpile the products and wait for the price to increase more," he said, adding that some prices have increased by Chinese renminbi (RMB) 500-600/tonne.

"We dare not confirm all the orders through the end of 2017 because we fear that we might lose some profits if graphite price continues to rise," said one producer in Heilongjiang province. He added that for domestic sales of large flake, sellers are now asking for advanced payment, instead of the customary 30-day credit term. 

Other contacts speaking to IM pointed to other drivers behind the price movement: scarce large flake production in Inner Mongolia, and restricted use of dynamite for mining in Pingdu of Shandong province.

Some told IM that the restriction on dynamite use should have been removed completely in May but this has not happened yet. In the meantime, only excavators can be used to mine the exterior of the sites.

Graphite grade: Flake, 94-97% C, +80 Mesh, FCL, FOB Qingdao, China 
Source: Industrial Minerals 


Lithium spot market steady as contract negotiations heat up

Martim Facada

The Chinese lithium spot market remained steady in mid-June with suppliers and consumers describing it as stable for the time being.

Lithium carbonate spot prices continued to trade between $18-21/kg, buyers and sellers confirmed to IM.

Meanwhile IM’s price for large contract deals on lithium carbonate, CIF China, dipped slightly or $1/kg to a range of $9-16/kg following the conclusion of some trades at $9/kg for delivery in Q3.

However, many market participants were still negotiating contracts for Q3 and H2 contracts.

Market participants attending IM’s 9th Lithium Supply & Markets Conference in Montreal, Canada on 29 May – 1 June, acknowledged the extremely wide range of prices in the market was mostly due to size and standing of the companies buying material, as well as the timing of negotiating.

While deals at $9/kg is lower than contracts signed at the start of the year, for some it was still higher than the previously agreed price.

"Recently, the large orders in China are showing that the dynamic of the battery prices is stable - not dropping at all," a Chinese supplier told IM.

Lithium carbonate prices for large contracts were trading in a range of $6.50-8.50/kg in June 2016.

Lithium hydroxide (56.5-57.5% LiOH, CIF China) spot prices, meanwhile, remained stable at $20.50-24/kg, according to IM’s 10 June assessment.

Producers’ growing focus on hydroxide was a source of much debate at the Montreal event.

The key raw material for lithium-ion batteries was gathering more attention as the lithium sector targets the booming EV battery market.

Some market participants, however, did reveal that they were disappointed with the EV market dynamics seen in H1, although that was not deemed enough to quell their enthusiasm for H2.

"EV sales in H1 2017 may have fallen behind in expectations but we anticipate this market to keep increasing later this year," a second Chinese lithium supplier told IM

"Despite this low expectation, the persisting growth on the battery market will mean more sales for lithium compounds," the supplier added.

Lithium carbonate, min 99-99.5% Li2CO3, large contracts, packed in bags, CIF Asia, $/kg 
Source: Industrial Minerals 


Fluorspar spot prices rise in Europe

Yoke Wong

European fluorspar spot prices jumped in mid-June as producers outside China finally caught up with the sharp price spike in the world’s largest producing country.

Following widespread shutdown of production in China due to strict anti-pollution inspections carried out since late February 2017, Chinese fluorspar spot prices have spiked to a four-year high. To put that into context, prior to February, fluorspar prices hovered around five-year lows as supply far outstripped demand.

Industrial Minerals’ acidspar min. 97% CAF2, wet filtercake prices hit a four-year high at $380-400/tonne FOB China on 15 June.

China accounts for about 50% of global fluorspar output and the supply tightness was further compounded by the fact that the environmental restrictions came at a time of lower seasonal output levels due to traditional winter production cuts.

Fluorspar prices have largely remained stable outside China for the past four months as most consumers are covered by long-term contract amid steady demand. The annual contracts for delivery in 2017 were concluded at the end of last year, when prices were low. However, producers have capitalised on the price uptrend in China to conclude spot business at a higher rate.

"The wave is going to extend everywhere (…) The spot prices are increasing, it’s going to move to the rest of the world," a major producer said.

A fluorspar acidspar consumer in Europe agreed: "The European market is higher than a few months ago. This price level will remain high."  

A large consumer concluded spot business at $285/tonne CIF Rotterdam for non-European material, and more consumers have received indications from producers that prices will be higher from H2 onwards.

However, the major producer questioned how representative European spot business is, given that it only accounts for a small percentage of annual trade.   

"On spot, it can be anything if there is a tight situation, maybe [buyers] are willing to pay more (…) you can’t afford to stop a plant because of $40 [more for fluorspar]," he said.  
"Annual negotiation will be the key," he added.

The annual 2018 fluorspar contract negotiations will begin in September-October and the agreed prices will be the industry benchmark.

Although producers outside China have received global enquiries, including for deliveries to China and Asia, this indicated there was supply pressure in Asia due to the supply disruption in China rather than recovery in demand, the major producer said.   

Both producers and consumers agreed that there is no big improvement in global demand, with the exception of the US where a recent anti-dumping duty ruling on Chinese refrigerant has helped to support the local market.   

Furthermore, the global supply and demand balance remains uncertain, as new production capacity is expected to come online in Canada later in the year.

Acidspar, 97% CaF2, Wet Filtercake, CIF, Rotterdam, Holland, $/tonne
Source: Industrial Minerals 

White fused alumina

Rising raw material costs support Chinese white fused alumina prices

Yoke Wong

Chinese white fused alumina (WFA) spot prices will be supported by rising raw material costs as local producers reported increasing difficulty sourcing stock amid reduced availability.

China is one of the largest WFA producers globally and alumina is the key raw material for the mineral. Spot alumina prices in China rose on a weekly basis throughout May amid a smelter restocking drive.

Furthermore, one of the biggest producers, Aluminium Corp of China Ltd (Chalco), announced in mid-May that it had suspended approximately 970,000 tpa of alumina capacity across its refineries, according to IM’s sister publication Metal Bulletin.

As a result of strong demand amid lower supply, free market metallurgical grade alumina in China increased to Chinese renminbi (RMB) 2,500-2,600/tonne ($367-382/tonne) on a delivered, duty-paid basis, on 1 June, according to Metal Bulletin.  

Alumina prices in early June rose by 12%, or RMB275/tonne, month-on-month compared with prices on 4 May, according to Metal Bulletin data.

As WFA producers buy smaller volumes of alumina for fusing operations compared with smelters, the former pays a premium for the same material. Chinese WFA producers paid up to RMB 2,700-2,800/tonne ($396-411) for domestic alumina supply, two producers told IM.

One major WFA producer told IM it was difficult securing volumes in China, while another Shandong-based producer reported that availability from Australia is also limited.

The Shandong-based producer was expecting alumina prices to increase further in the coming weeks, which will support WFA prices in China.

Nonetheless, WFA (99.0% Al2O3 min, in 25kg bags) prices have remained unchanged since 6 April at€700-750/tonne ($786-842/tonne) on CIF Europe basis, according to IM’s assessment on 1 June.

Fused alumina, white, 25kg bags, CIF Europe, €/tonne 
Source: Industrial Minerals 

Soda Ash

Soda ash supply tightness in India lifts spot prices

Yoke Wong

Soda ash spot prices for delivery in India edged higher in early June due to supply shortage caused by delayed shipments from Europe.

Two chemical producers in India told IM that their shipments from Eastern Europe were delayed and they reported having difficulty sourcing volume from Europe.

One Eastern European producer has confirmed that there were higher purchase volume from India from March onwards, but the main causes for the delay was a lack of container vessels and the sudden increase in freight rates.

While another producer CIECH group spokesman told IM: "We see bigger demand, more orders we get than production capacity, we do our best to deliver required volumes, [but] logistics, weather conditions can influence our capabilities."

However, delivery was reported to be returning to normal as two buyers have received their cargo earlier in June.  

Synthetic dense and light soda ash prices rose slightly to $225-235/tonne on a CIF India basis, according to IM’s assessment on 8 June, up from $225-235/tonne previously.

Some producers in India also confirmed that they had received more enquiries as a result of the delays in recent months, but most domestic production was fully committed on long-term contracts in 2017, two suppliers said.   

Despite higher demand, domestic light and dense soda ash prices remained unchanged at $250-260/tonne on ex-work basis.

India has a soda ash production capacity of 3.1m tpa but the country still relies on imports to meet domestic demand.  

Detergent is the biggest end-use market for soda ash in India, and accounts for 39% of the total consumption, according to an India-based producer. Glass production follows as the second biggest market at 29%, he added, while chemical applications is ranked third at 14-15%.  

Market awaits anti-dumping duty ruling  

Since 2012, India has imposed an anti-dumping duty of $38.26/tonne on soda ash imports from China, while material from the US is subjected to a duty of $38.79/tonne.

However, the all India Glass Manufacturers’ Federation (AIGMF) has applied to the ministry of commerce and industry in 2015 to scrap the import duties as the circumstances have changed and the duties are no longer warranted. 

The anti-dumping duty case is under review and a verdict from the high court is due in mid-July.

Some India-based consumers were hopeful that the government will scrap the anti-dumping duties and under that scenario, they will switch their supply source to China.  

"This anti-dumping duty is going to go in July [….] So China soda ash will be cheaper than Europe," a consumer told IM.

While another consumer also held high hopes that he could soon seek supply from China.

Soda ash, synthetic dense and light, C&F India, $/tonne 
Source: Industrial Minerals 

Antimony Trioxide

Global antimony trioxide market under pressure

Martim Facada

The Chinese antimony trioxide spot market held unchanged in mid-June but many market participants expects prices could soften in the coming weeks due to the depressed demand and quiet business condition during summer.  

Spot prices for antimony trioxide 99.5% Sb2O3 was assessed at $7,780-7,900/tonne FOB China basis 20 June. 

A number of traders told IM that suppliers are keen to sell material before the summer holiday period and prices were under downward pressure. 

"We have been seeing prices in the market at about $7,780/tonne FOB China for lots of 20 tonnes. However, we expect prices to dip even further as demand remains depressed and Chinese suppliers want to get rid of their stocks," a Chinese trader said. 

A European supplier told IM: "Chinese producers are trying to keep their offer prices at $7,800/tonne FOB China, but we have seen business being concluded below this price and expect the market to keep moving down." 


In the European domestic market, antimony trioxide 99.5% Sb2O3 prices fell from €7.55-7.75/kg to €7.20-7.35/kg in-warehouse Antwerp/Rotterdam, according to the 20 June IM market assessment.

Import prices remained unchanged at $8,000-8,100/tonne CIF Antwerp/Rotterdam. However, consumers and producers told IM they expect these prices to soften.

"We have been offering lots of 20 tonnes above €7.30/kg in-warehouse Antwerp/Rotterdam," a European trader told IM. "However, our customers have been holding back.

"We see business being done below our offer prices and will have to reduce our selling prices if we want to conclude any business," the trader added. 

The US antimony trioxide 99.5% Sb2O3 market has also seen a softening in domestic prices, although import prices were unchanged.

The CIF East Coast USA delivery basis price remained at $8,000-8,200/tonne, whereas the domestic price fell to $3.60-3.70/lb from $3.63-3.75/lb in-warehouse Baltimore previously.

Antimony trioxide, typically 99.5% Sb2O3, 20 tonne lots FOB China, $/tonne 
Source: Industrial Minerals