Russian Mining targets flame retardants sector with expanded magnesium hydroxide plant

By Davide Ghilotti
Published: Thursday, 20 December 2018

Russian Mining increases capacity by 50% while the flame retardants market continues its accelerated growth, yet alumina hydrate market remains the most widely used material.

Russian Mining Chemical Co (RMCC) intends to target the growing flame retardants market with a 50% capacity increase for magnesium hydroxide created by a recently-opened facility at Vyazma, west of Moscow.

The company believes that there is scope to expand its share of the magnesium hydroxide market for such retardants, it told Fastmarkets on Wednesday October 17.

The company has brucite deposits in Russia and already had two processing plants in Vyazma, with capacity for 100,000 tonnes per year of magnesia-based products, including magnesium hydroxide.

In the latest expansion of the site, a third plant was set up in September with capacity for an additional 50,000 tpy. The additional volume will mainly go to supply the flame retardants market, according to Don Hendrik, who is managing director of Europiren, RMCC’s distributor for Europe, and a member of the board at Russian Mining.

"[The use of] magnesium hydroxide in flame retardants is growing," Hendrik said. "Because of growth in construction and tighter legislation, magnesium hydroxide is taking away market share from [the alternative material] alumina hydrate (ATH)."

ATH remains the most commonly used material in flame retardants in terms of volume, with a share today of 80-90% of the global flame retardants market. In comparison, magnesium hydroxide has a lower 10-20% share, but it is making progress.

"There is a tendency to move toward magnesium hydroxide," Hendrik said.

"One reason is that the composition temperature of magnesium hydroxide is higher, at 330°, than it is for ATH [200°]. Users of ATH have limitations, because they cannot increase the process temperature above 180-190°, because the ATH would start to decompose. Here, magnesium hydroxide can gain market share."

The other leading driver of expansion in the use of magnesium hydroxide is regulation, he added. Europe’s CPR 2017 (Construction Protection Regulation) set of norms on flame retardant requirements for cables and wires in construction has a specific category for smoke-related emissions, which is intended to maintain the integrity of cables and wires after a fire.

Magnesium hydroxide’s alkaline characteristics reduce the acidity in the smoke, helping to ensure better resistance by cable and wire coatings.

Cables and wires are the largest end application for the flame retardants industry, followed by roofing membranes and aluminium composite panels (ACPs).

Brucite deposits

RMCC’s magnesia-based products are all produced from brucite, rather than magnesite. The company owns two of Russia’s largest brucite deposits. Currently, one is operational with a mine capacity for 350,000 tpy. The second deposit is expected to start production in 2023.

The products serve fertilizer applications for the domestic market, for the production of ammonium nitrate. For exports, the main end market is flame retardants.

Europiren represents Russian Mining and acts as distributor of its products in markets including Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and India.

RMCC specialises in the mining, processing and trading of brucite from the Kuldur deposit in the Jewish Autonomous Region of Far East Russia. Kuldur was discovered in 1966 and has reserves of 10m tonnes brucite. The brucite is a crystalline massive rock, white to light grey in colour.

RMCC was established in 2002 and started its first production plant in Vyazma, Smolensk Oblast, 220km west of Moscow, in 2006.  

RMCC established Kuldur Mining Company in 2011 and a second processing plant in Vyazma in 2011. RMCC purchased a controlling block of shares in Kuldur Mining in 2012.

Flame retardants explained

Economic deposits of the natural magnesium minerals brucite, huntite and hydromagnesite are found in only a few places in the world and are extracted mainly for use as flame retardants.  

There are two main areas of brucite deposits globally – in Liaoning, China and in Russia, both with significant resources.  

Russian brucite miner Russian Mining Chemical Co. (RMCC) has grown significantly over the last 10 years, largely on the back of international sales to the flame retardant industry. 

Brucite (magnesium hydroxide, or Mg(OH)2), along with huntite (magnesium calcium carbonate) and hyrdromagnesite (hydrated magnesium carbonate), are among the lesser known magnesium minerals.