China’s talc industry has been urged by the
national government to upgrade its ore separation and
production facilities, as part of the country’s
accelerated green industrial development initiative.
Cleaning up the domestic environment was set as a top
priority by Premier Xi Jinping as part of China’s
13th Five Year Plan, which runs from 2016 to 2020.
This goal has placed a particularly heavy burden on the
country’s mining industry. In order to ensure that
different mineral sectors are able to meet this challenge,
China’s Ministry of Information and Technology
(MIIT) has engaged in a number of consultation exercises, with
talc industry participants invited to provide feedback on a
series of proposed reforms by 20 June.
Under the reform programme, newly-built or expanded talc
projects must adhere to the provisions of China’s
updated mining resources policy, which includes tough
restrictions on emissions and waste, and be approved by
national and local planning authorities.
|A waiting game at the Pingdu talc mine,
China’s talc industry have been given a
from the government to clean up its act, in line with
other environmental reforms taking place in other
industrial minerals markets.
In order to help curb oversupply, capacity growth will be
strictly controlled and priority will be given to inventory
optimisation, mergers and business reorganisations and
increasing industry concentration.
All outdated capacity is set to be eliminated and the
government will encourage the establishment of new talc
operations in areas with the richest deposits and close to the
country’s industrial zones.
No talc projects will be permitted in designated areas of
outstanding natural beauty, or in areas protected due to their
environmental, ecological or cultural importance. Projects will
also be banned near drinking water sources and in
non-industrialised parts of China.
Any talc projects that already exist in any of these
restricted areas must meet even stricter environmental
standards than those in approved development locations, or
must cease to operate by the end of 2017.
The Chinese government is also encouraging the domestic
mining industry, including its talc sector, to invest in modern
ore sorting technologies, such as light, magnetic and
floatation separation, which have higher recovery rates than
older forms of separation technology (see table).
Efficient de-dusting and noise control equipment should be
used in the processing of talc, to limit particulate and noise
pollution. However, many older operations do not use the
appropriate machinery, and new government guidelines have
sought to make these mandatory with severe consequences for
companies that fail to install the necessary equipment.
The guidelines also state that at least 95% of the total
annual talc ore consumed by end users should be converted into
finished product and any businesses that fail to achieve this
will be forced to upgrade their technology or face closure.
In particular, producers of food-grade talc, which has
always been tightly regulated, have been told that they must
meet new, stricter national food additive safety standards
while all other grades for cosmetic, paint, paper, plastic,
rubber, cable, ceramic and water-proofing have also had their
Standards for gas emissions, waste water disposal and
tailings storage have also been tightened, as have energy
efficiency standards for processing plants.
Where possible, talc producers that work with composite ore
bodies have been asked to install technology capable of
recovering other non-metallic and metallic elements as
by-products from the main talc operation.
Officials focus on talc
The anti-pollution reforms which have so heavily impacted
other industrial minerals industries such as magnesia
(see p17), were also enforced in the talc industry
in mid 2016. However, as talc beneficiation does not require
calcining, production was allowed to restart sooner.
Chinese talc production is mainly concentrated in Guangxi
and Liaoning provinces, but the industry in these areas is
sprawling and, for the most part, poorly regulated.
A producer based in Haicheng city, Liaoning province, told
IM that production stopped for around a month
from the end of April while government teams carried out
environmental inspections of talc facilities in the
Production was allowed to resume in late May and there were
no reported international shortages of talc as a result of the
Many producers have so far not felt the need to invest in
upgrades required by the government, but the tougher
regulations might eventually see a reduction in Chinese talc
capacity, which could ultimately impact volumes available for