Mineral Sand Market
Historically, demand for titanium minerals and zircon has displayed generally steady, GDP-related, growth characteristics. Increasing demand for mineral sand products from developing countries has become increasingly evident over recent years. 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 zircon is used in the production of ceramics, including tiles, sanitary ware and tableware. Zircon is also used in refractories and foundry applications.
Global zircon demand in 2014 was an estimated 1.1 million tonnes.
Zircon prices trebled during 2011 to peak around US$2,400-$2,600 per tonne for bulk shipments FOB Australia but have since retraced to around US 950/t. The short to medium term outlook for the zircon market looks to be stable with prices holding for the past 6 months. 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. In 2010, the global titanium dioxide (TiO2) demand was estimated at approximately 6.4 million tonnes. This number has increased modestly in recent years with demand expected to grow in the coming years.
In early 2012 rutile was priced around US$2,050 FOB Australia. The rutile price has since retraced to about US $900/t. This compares to prices of around US$600-700 per tonne at the start of 2011.
Ilmenite prices also trebled during 2011 from levels of about US$100 per tonne at the start of that year. Currently ilmenite prices are in the range US $140 – US$165/t.
There are no consistent prices for leucoxene due to its variable TiO2 content, however it is generally valued at about 75% of the prevailing rutile price. It follows that leucoxene prices also increased significantly during 2011.
Ilmenite and leucoxene can be processed to produce synthetic rutile which sells at a slight discount to commercial rutile prices.