Mineral Sands Market
Historically, demand for mineral sands products has displayed generally steady, GDP-related, growth characteristics. Increasing demand for mineral sand products from developing countries as they move towards modernization has supported steady growth in the industry. Titanium minerals and zircon constitute a relatively secure input source to a range of industrial and end-consumer applications, with relatively low threats from substitutes.
Over 50 per cent of the zircon supplied to industry is consumed in the production of ceramics, including tiles, sanitary ware and tableware. Zircon is also used in a range of other applications including zirconium chemicals, refractories, fused zirconia, catalytic fuel converters, foundry applications as well as water and air purification applications. Global zircon demand for the period 2014 to 2016 averaged at close to 1.1 million tonnes per year. The general expectation is that the global demand will increase marginally in the coming years to be closer to 1.2-1.3 million tonnes per year.
Zircon material is used widely across many locations with close to 50% of the worlds zircon consumed in China, who are the major consumer. Other regions with strong markets include Europe, India, SE Asia and the Middle East. Global demand is driven by a range of factors however due to strong demand in the ceramics area the building and construction industry play a major role in supporting demand.
The short to medium term outlook for the zircon market looks to be stable with prices holding for the latter part of 2016 supported by price increases reported during the early part of 2017. The longer-term outlook for zircon prices remains positive due to increasing demand and a limited pool of new projects in development.
Titanium Minerals – rutile, ilmenite, leucoxene and synthetic rutile – are the principal feedstock for pigment production which is the major use for TiO2 material representing as much as 85-90% of the global consumption. The Titanium material is used to make a pure white additive, which is light refractive, and used to produce materials such as plastics, paints and paper. Other applications for titanium products include TiO2 sponge for the production of Titanium metal, and welding rod applications.
Ilmenite, HiTi and Leucoxene are mainly used to make pure white, highly light refractive and ultra-violet light absorbing, Titanium Dioxide (Ti02) pigment for use in protective house and car paints; paper; plastics; ink; rubber; textiles; cosmetics; sun screens; leather and ceramics. Because titanium dioxide is non-toxic and biologically inert, it can be safely used in foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals. Super strong, lightweight and corrosion resistant titanium metals are also used in the construction of aircraft, spacecraft and motor vehicles, and for medical implants. Again, its non-reactive properties make titanium one of the few materials the human body will not reject; consequently it is widely used in such medical operations as hip replacements and the installation of heart pacemakers. This super metal is also being increasingly used in the manufacture of strong, lightweight sports equipment, jewellery and other advanced engineering applications
In 2010, the global titanium dioxide (TiO2) demand was estimated at approximately 6.4 million tonnes globally. This number has increased modestly in recent years with demand expected to grow in the coming years with predictions that the industry could grow to in excess of 8 million tonnes of demand by 2025.
Although in recent years pricing for TiO2 products has been at the lower end of the market during the latter part of 2016 the industry has seen a resurgence in pricing linked to stronger demand in the sector and balancing of stock levels globally. Prices in early 2017 reached in excess of US$250 per metric tonne and are expected to settle to somewhere close to US$200 a tonne in the coming months and years.