There was a shaky start to the year for the fluorspar markets
as prices remained low on lackluster demand and an oversupplied
Things were so bad that one developer, Tertiary Minerals,
admitted that it was looking to other markets to make profit,
because of poor global market conditions in fluorspar and
difficulties with the development of its Swedish fluorspar
By March the situation was very much changed, however.
Fluorspar prices within China had started to rise as downstream
industries such as steel, aluminium fluoride and hydrofluoric
acid started to perform better when the steel industry
Despite this uptrend for China-origin fluorspar, prices
elsewhere in the world remained largely stable as consumers
were well covered by long-term contracts. Amid improving
demand and the supply cuts in China intended to reduce
pollution levels, however, some were optimistic of a recovery
following six years of depressed demand and falling prices.
Anti-dumping and legal issues
The United States Department of Commerce imposed an
anti-dumping duty on a number of refrigerant materials imported
from China with effect from March 1, 2017.
After launching an investigation in October 2016, the
department determined in April that a series of fluorochemical
compounds commonly known as R-134a was being, or was likely to
be, sold in the US at "less than fair value."
Anti-dumping duties ranging from 148.79% to 167.02% were
imposed on China-origin R-134a imports into the US.
"This is something that we have been lobbying about for some
time. It has been several years; now, it finally looks like it
is going to hold," one US-based consumer told Industrial
In August this year, the US Court of Appeals for the District
of Columbia circuit overturned a ruling by the
country’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in
2015 that would have banned a series of fluorochemicals (R404a,
R134a, R407C, R410A) from use in new products, to begin from
The EPA ruled under the US’s Clean Air Act that a
list of high global warming potential (GWP) fluorochemicals
were classed as unacceptable and would need to be replaced with
alternative low-GWP chemicals.
As a result of the EPA ruling, many companies including
Chemours and Honeywell researched and developed technologies to
produce hydrofluoro-olefin (HFO) to replace hydrofluorocarbon
Chemours and Honeywell said that they intended to challenge
Production cuts bite
As well as a recovery in demand from the steel sector, Chinese
prices were also climbing on curtailed supply, as the
environmental legislation took hold. This was seen in the
process for both fluorspar and in aluminium trifluoride (AlF3)
AlF3 is used as a flux for aluminium metal production, and many
producers worldwide source the raw material from China. But
production in key producing regions in Southern China was
severely reduced due to anti-pollution inspections, which led
to the closure of plants that did not meet environmental
In April, acidspar spot prices increased in Europe after
months of stability, when producers started to raise their
offers following the uptrend in China. Some argued, however,
that the spot market was not representative because it
accounted for a small proportion of the overall business
volume, which is largely covered by annual contracts.
This year saw a new project come online. Canada Fluorspar
opened its 200,000 tonnes per year St Lawrence mine, in the
province of Newfoundland, in October. It is an open-pit mine
with 30 years’ operation capacity and potential
for 40 years of resource development.
Afghanistan fluorspar producer Amania Mining is expected to
start commercial production of acid-grade material (acidspar)
in early 2018.
The company was established in 2010 and has been producing
metallurgical-grade fluorspar (metspar) since 2014. The new
acidspar production schedule was later than the initially
South African fluorspar producer SepFluor, meanwhile, expects
to achieve full production in 2019.
Industrial Minerals Fluorspar 2017 Conference
Producers of fluorspar and hydrogen fluoride (HF) face
challenges related to declining ore quality, Thomas Dahlke
of BUSS ChemTech told delegates at the 2017 conference,
held in Amsterdam in October.
High-quality ore reserves are being exhausted while newer
resources are smaller in size and are often located in
politically unstable regions, Dahlke said.
Guillermo Federico Gallegos, commercial director at Mexichem,
identified a number of trends:
The scarcity of metspar material.
Looking at consumption patterns, global metspar volumes
have reduced by 19% since their peak in 2013; the estimated
volume for 2016 is around 2.3 million tonnes, and the
prediction for 2018-22 is growth of around 3% per
Metspar is no longer only about the product.
Metspar usage in steel is becoming more focused on
speciality and/or stainless steel products, so customers
increasingly require more stringent metspar
characteristics, such as high quality and minimum
batch-to-batch variability of product.
Customer’ logistics are also evolving,
especially in Europe and the US, where they want to ensure
the sustainability of their raw materials and are ordering
smaller amounts more frequently, rather than bulk
Any other applications for metspar will require strong
New applications for metspar, such as using as a flux with
the cement raw materials in the rotary kiln in order to
speed up the calcination process, may not be as swift as
some might hope.
Chinese aluminium fluoride production is set to fall by 6%
in 2017 after shutdowns and the consequences of regulatory
tightening, Cassie Yan, manager of Do-Fluoride Chemicals
(DFD), said. Yan expects Chinese output to fall to 670,000
tonnes this year from 710,000 tonnes in 2016.
Fluorspar producers in Canada, Vietnam and South Africa are
ramping up output at the time when Chinese supply has been
curtailed as a result of environmental legislation.
Although China remains a major global supplier of
fluorspar, with a downstream focus that will continue to
rationalize supply, Vietnam’s proportion of
total Southeast Asia supply volumes increased from 0% in
2012 to 77% in 2016; while the remaining 23% largely came
from Thailand, according to Masan Resources.