The year to date for magnesia output has been dominated by
China, with mine and plant closures announced alongside
environmental inspections intended to reduce pollution (see
Magnesia prices were low at the start of 2017 but have since
risen considerably. Fused magnesia (FM) prices in particular
increased by 326% from the end of January to October.
There has also been international progress, specifically for
Magnezit in Russia, the Industrial Mining Company (IMC), a
subsidiary of Ma’aden, in Saudi Arabia and
AusMag (Korab Resources) operating in Australia.
Additionally, a recent merger between RHI of Austria and
Magnesita of Brazil has formed RHI Magnesita, which is now
trading on the London Stock Exchange (See pp31-32).
RHI AG (RHI) and Magnesita Refratarios SA (Magnesita)
announced their merger on October 17; RHI Magnesita commenced
trading on the London Stock Exchange on October 27.
RHI’s refractory production in 2016 was
1.5 million tonnes while that of Magnesita was 1.3 million
tonnes. The combined company achieved pro-forma revenues of
€2.5 billion ($2.96 billion) in 2016.
|Figure 1: View of Kirgiteisk
In 2016, China accounted for 26% of global magnesite
resources, 63% of global magnesia production and 65% of
refractories. The majority of production in China is from
Liaoning province, the world’s main
magnesia-producing region. In 2017, environmental inspectors
from central and local government forced many magnesia plants,
including caustic calcined magnesite (CCM), dead burned
magnesite (DBM) and FM facilities, to halt production to reduce
The government also imposed restrictions on the use of
dynamite for mining in many areas, leading to a magnesia supply
shortage. In 2017, the export taxes for DBM and FM (10%), CCM
(5%) and the quota fee (around RMB 260-350 ($30.20-52.76) per
tonne) were cancelled. Consolidation is forthcoming in
Liaoning, with state-owned Haicheng Magnesite Refractory
General Factory taking control of all magnesite mines in
Haicheng, accounting for a third of the total resources in
China. Anshan is also planning to consolidate all local
magnesia companies into one state-owned conglomerate.
Supply constraints have led to an unprecedented rise in
magnesia prices due to material shortages.
CCM, DBM and FM fob China prices from January 19 to October
31 are shown in Table 1, including percentage increases
covering the first 10 months (48% for CCM, 220% for DBM and
326% for FM).
The halting of operations at several small companies,
magnesia producers being able to pay cash on delivery, magnesia
kilns halting operations for environmental protection (341
kilns in Daashiqiao and 529 kilns in Haicheng) and a rise in
coal prices propelled the domestic Chinese magnesia price
|Figure 2: Two shaft kilns for CCM
at the Lower
Angara production site
Although China has previously exported little ore, it shipped
118,453 tonnes of magnesite to Indonesia (76,907 tonnes -
65%), Japan (33,308 tonnes - 28%), the Philippines (7,200
tonnes - 6%) as well as Malaysia, South Korea and India
(1,038 tonnes - 1%) over the first nine months of 2017.
Magnesia export volumes in the first three quarters of the
year are shown in Table 2 alongside year-on-year percentage
China is now importing significant tonnages of magnesia,
mainly from North Korea
(Table 3). Magnesia imports totalled 153,054 tonnes in 2016;
imports in the first nine months of 2017 were 137,043 tonnes.
Magnesia imports from North Korea into China in 2016 were
114,876 tonnes of CCM (97% of total imports) at an average
price of $170 per tonne, 27,810 tonnes of DBM (89%) at an
average price of $162 per tonne and 2,360 tonnes of FM (95%) at
an average price of $390 per tonne.
In the first nine months of this year, China imported from
North Korea 104,808 tonnes of CCM (99% of total), 22,502 tonnes
of DBM (82%) and 2,202 tonnes of FM (55%). Prices averaged $138
per tonne, $130 per tonne and $325 per tonne respectively.
Another main importer of FM was Russia with 1,545 tonnes
(38%) at an average price of $636 per tonne.
With difficulties in supplying magnesia set to continue,
growing shortages and, therefore, higher prices are expected
into 2018. Stronger FM prices are prompting RHI to consider a
restart of its Porsgrunn plant in Norway by the end of December
2017 after operations there were suspended in August
Supply sources outside of China
With the Chinese magnesia industry essentially in a state of
near-ruin, other producers have reaped the benefits. But is
there enough supply elsewhere to sate the market if the
Chinese mines do not come back online?
Russian Magnezit Group
Magnezit Group was, for many years, developed around the
magnesite deposit of Satka (Chelyabinsk region, Russia),
while also managing mines and plants in the Lower Angara area
(Krasnoyarsk Territory) in Siberia.
Nowadays, however, Magnezit produces a new line of materials
for manufacturing refractory products used in heat-containing
industrial vessels. Magnezit produces FM and DBM with an MgO
content >97%, CaO/SiO2 ratio of at least 2 and a high degree
of crystal size consistency.
The company has total reserves of 270 million tonnes split
between Russia (Chelyabinsk region - 150 million tonnes,
Krasnoyarsk - 110 million tonnes) and Slovakia (Lubenik) - 10
million tonnes. All magnesite comes from the
company’s own ore supply and is delivered to the
group’s plants. The magnesite reserves and
resources audit is based on the JORC code, which Russian plants
have followed since 2006 and since 2008 in Slovakia.
In 2011, Magnezit Group obtained a license to develop the
Talsk magnesite deposit in Razdolinsk (Kransnoyarsk Territory).
The neighboring Kirgiteisk deposit was developed in 2006, so
the two deposits have 110 million tonnes of pure crystalline
magnesite (a view of the Kirgiteisk mine is shown in Figure 1).
The chemical characteristics of the three grades KM-1, KM-2 and
KM-3 in the Kirgiteisk deposit are shown in Table 4.
The Satka site produces high-quality DBM using two kilns,
each with capacity of 50,000 tonnes per year, and
multiple-hearth furnace (100,000 tpy) and grinding and
briquetting equipment for burning magnesia.
The Lower Angara site has two shaft kilns, each with
capacity of 50,000 tpy, for high-quality CCM production. The
CCM goes to the melting workshop for use in FM production. A
view of the two shaft kilns is shown in Figure 2.
Today, Magnezit produces CCM-95 and CCM-97M, with the
chemical analysis of ignited material shown in Table 5.
DBM is produced in three steps. It first enters the
multiple-hearth furnace, then undergoes grinding and
briquetting before finally entering the shaft kiln. The
chemical analysis and grain bulk density is shown in Table 6
with the quality of the FM in Table 7.
Different FM crystal sizes are formed in a block after
melting with small crystals (100-300 µm), middle size
crystals (300-1,000 µm) and large crystals (1,000
µm or more). A Magnezit FM crystal is shown in Figure
Industrial Mining Company (IMC),
Ma’aden, Saudi Arabia
Ma’aden is the Saudi state company responsible
for exploiting mining resources other than oil. IMC, a 100%
subsidiary of Ma’aden, is involved in developing
magnesite, bauxite and kaolin. IMC owns two magnesite deposits,
Zarghat and Jabal Rukham, in the east of the Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia. IMC, which started operations in 2011, has invested up
to $80 million in the Zarghat mine and Madinah plant. The
company currently sells 36,000 tpy, which is 90% of its
multiple hearth furnace (MFH) capacity of 40,000 tpy.
The resources in Zharghat contain both microcrystalline
magnesite (with high % MgO, low iron <0.03%, high achievable
density or reactivity) and macrocrystalline (low silica). Some
of the magnesite is pure; however, the lowest grade has micro
veins containing impurities such as dolomite and clay. A
comparison of the magnesite ore chemistry is shown in Table
After blasting ore is crushed and screened into 3/10/25/50
mm sizes, optical sorting is carried out on the material larger
than 25mm material and prime grades high grade (HG), technical
grade (TG) and standard grade (SG) are produced. At present
only prime grades are used with chemistry shown in Table 9.
An off-spec grade lower grade (LG) is produced with MgO
(max) 93.9%, CaO (min) 2.51%, Al2O3 (min) 0.31%, SiO2 (min)
3.01% and Fe2O3 (min) 0.21%
The Madinah plant has integrated milling facilities. There
is a pressurized vertical shaft kiln and a mixing plant with
capacity of 32,000 tpy of DBM. Following an unsuccessful trial
in 2011/2012, the shaft kiln stopped. The start-up of the
vertical shaft kiln, direct sintering, of 32,000 tpy, commenced
in July 2017 with low SiO2, 92% and 95% MgO DBM. In September
2017, a 36,000 tpy mixing plant for monolithics was
commissioned. A view of the Ma’aden CCM and DBM
plant, Madinah, Saudi Arabia is in Figure 4.
|Figure 3: Russian
Magnezit FM from Lower
Angara (approx. scale 15 cm)
|Figure 4: View of
Ma’aden CCM and DBM plant,
Nicolás Gungutia, GANMAG
Enter Ganmag Magnesite Solutions
Interestingly, Ma’aden has retained the services
of Ganmag, a magnesia consultancy set up by Nicolas
With Ganmag’s help, it plans to raise output,
develop markets and products, decrease costs and increase
magnesite reserves. The first phase is under way; the objective
is to increase sales by 2.5 times, double turnover, reduce
mining costs by 20%, lower variable costs by 40%, cut fixed
costs by 2.5 and boost reserves to 4 million tonnes from
1.7 million tonnes currently.
AusMag (Korab Resources,) Northern Territory,
AusMag is based in Western Australia with Korab Resources Ltd
holding 100% of issued shares. AusMag owns 100% of the
Winchester magnesite deposit, located 85km from Darwin
The Winchester magnesite deposit is located 2km from
Batchelor in the Northern Territory and Mineral Lease ML30587,
hectares, and was granted the right to expand for an initial
period of 25 years up to October 20, 2040. The deposit is
overlain by 6m of clay, with a magnesite depth of at least
130m. Only 6-7% of the deposit has been drilled by reverse
circulation (RC) and diamond core drilling techniques,
compliant with JORC requirements; the Winchester resources are
shown in Table 10.
After the completion of the company’s
prefeasibility study in 2015, Korab established the different
stages needed to bring the mine into production. But it is yet
to provide a timetable for this.
Editor’s note: Table 11 was edited
post publication to correct the information shown for
Thanks are due to Dr Dmitry Borzov (Magnezit Group),
Professor Wen Lu (based in China), Andrej Kapinski (AusMag,
Korab Resources), Nicolas Gungutia, Ganmag Magnesite
Solutions, Industrial Minerals and others for their materials