The mood was upbeat at the conference, held on November
13-15, with TiO2 producers noting the increase in
pigment prices compared with last year, and with many mineral
sand producers confident that the market strength would
continue to come through into feedstock demand.
But a particular bottleneck was seen in the production of
titanium slag, the high-purity feedstock which is likely to be
increasingly favored for chloride-route TiO2 production.
Chloride-route TiO2 production is considered to
be less polluting, and the result has traditionally been viewed
as a higher-quality product.
A number of delegates and speakers at the conference
downplayed the importance of TiO2 quality for end-consumers in
the current market, which is marked by shortages and a scramble
for short-term supply.
But the Chinese government remains committed to
chloride-route production, with an effective ban on new
sulfate-route capacity in the years ahead.
And as a number of delegates pointed out to Industrial
Minerals, this means that titanium slag production will have
"There is plenty of mineral sands around," one senior
employee at a TiO2 producer told Industrial
Minerals. "But high-grade ilmenite… and rutile - not so
This shortfall in natural chloride route feedstocks is
likely to drive sharply higher demand for chloride slag.
And as one slag producer pointed out, world output remains
mostly in the hands of a few companies, including Rio Tinto,
Tronox and TiZer. A titanium slag production facility in Jizan,
Saudi Arabia, operated by Cristal, is set to be acquired by
Tronox in a current takeover process.
Rio Tinto produced about 1.05 million tonnes of slag in
2016. In the same year, Tronox reported nameplate capacity of
410,00 tonnes per year of slag production, while TiZer saw
capacity at 230,000 tpy.
Chloride slag normally consists of around 90-95%
TiO2, meaning that even the 500,000 tpy of
greenfield chloride-route TiO2 planned by Chinese producer
Lomon Billions alone would put huge pressure on slag
Bruce Griffin, senior vice president of strategic development
at Lomon Billions, which is China’s largest
TiO2 producer, told the conference that sourcing
feedstock for the company’s new chloride
capacity would be a priority in the years to come.