TiO2/Zircon

Latest News

  • World crude steel output up 5% in January 2021

    Monday, 01 March 2021

    Global crude steel output increased by 4.8% year on year to 162.9 million tonnes in January 2021, the World Steel Association (Worldsteel) said on February 26, marking the third monthly consecutive increase.

  • AT A GLANCE: Tronox Q4 TiO2 sales rise on higher volumes

    Monday, 22 February 2021

    Titanium dioxide producer Tronox forecast a double-digit percentage increase in titanium dioxide sales in the early part of 2021 thanks to “significantly improved market conditions,” in a performance statement published on February 18.

  • AT A GLANCE: Base Resources revenues, profits fall in H2

    Monday, 22 February 2021

    Mineral sand miner Base Resources has reported a net loss for the second half of 2020 in a results statement released on Monday February 22, although the price of mineral sand products showed strength in the period.

  • Maersk aims to launch world’s first carbon-neutral vessel in 2023

    Thursday, 18 February 2021

    All future new-build vessels to be owned by shipping operator Maersk will have dual-fuel technology installed, allowing either carbon-neutral operations or the use of standard very low sulfur fuel oil (VLSFO), the company said on Wednesday February 17.

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Features

  • Titanium dioxide makers aim for a steady course

    Monday, 12 October 2020

    Price stabilization and inventory control are bearing fruit for titanium dioxide and mineral sand producers, even as Covid-19 rocks pigment markets.

  • Trade wars, 'green' outlook rejuvenate rare earths

    Monday, 12 October 2020

    With government support for rare earths mining increasing, a growing number of miners – including mineral sands producers – now see value in a market that, for a long time, was effectively closed to non-Chinese producers due to its high costs and strict environmental regulations.

  • Steel market woes are weighing on refractories

    Friday, 03 January 2020

    Pressure is continuing to mount on the refractories sector while its main market – the steel industry – suffers from overcapacity, trade tensions and emissions reduction targets, Rose Pengelly finds.

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Market Brief

Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a white pigment that is a key ingredient of paints, coatings, paper and plastics. For white products, TiO2 is the material of choice as it is the brightest and whitest commercially available pigment.

TiO2 is manufactured from the minerals ilmenite, rutile and, in smaller quantities, leucoxene, which are primarily sourced from mineral sand deposits, but also can be processed from hard rock deposits.

There are two commercially active ways of manufacturing TiO2: the sulphate and chloride routes. Sulphate tends to utilise the lower grade mineral ilmenite, while chloride processing favours higher quality feedstocks such as rutile.

Zircon is an entirely separate mineral and contains no TiO2. It is however commonly tied up with titanium mineral deposits so most producers also sell quantities of zircon. For few it is the primary focus, but for many miners it is a high-value, by-product bonus.

Supply

TiO2 pigment is a mature industry which has been developed by the chemicals industry. While North America and Europe host the majority of plants, new plants under construction in China are starting to readdress this imbalance.

Leading producers include: DuPont, Cristal Global, Huntsman Corp., Kronos Worldwide and Tronox.

In terms of feedstock mineral production, Australia and South Africa are leading producers. Since 2008/09, new African sources have come online in Mozambique and Madagascar.

In terms of tonnages, ilmenite is by far the largest mined TiO2 mineral. On average it has between 52-54% TiO2 content and is purchased, in the main, by those that manufacturer sulphate TiO2.

Rutile has almost double the TiO2 content at 92-95% TiO2 but is less abundant than ilmenite. The biggest commercially active sources are in Australia and Sierra Leone.

Leading producers of TiO2 minerals include: Iluka Resources (Australia), Exxaro Resources (South Africa), Rio Tinto (Australia), Kenmare Resources (Ireland/Mozambique), Bemax Resources (Australia), Consolidated Rutile (Australia) and Titanium Resources Group (UK/Sierra Leone).

Zircon is commonly tied up with titanium mineral sand deposits but has very different market applications. It is almost double the US dollar value of rutile.

Most of producers of titanium minerals from sand have zircon by-production but the focus on this high-value production is increasing in line with demand driven by China.

Chloride route: 55%

Sulphate route: 45%

Global capacity (tonnes): 5.6m. tpa

Markets 

The largest market is TiO2’s direct use as a white pigment in industrial and household paints and coatings for products such as cars. Significant quantities are also used in plastics and paper where its whiteness is still a primary reason for its use.  

The majority of zircon production finds its way into ceramics, although refractories and foundry sands are also important end uses. In ceramics, China is the biggest influencing factor importing around a third of world supply as it has few zircon sources of its own.