Titanium

Products and Markets

A MINERAL IN DEMAND

TITANIUM IS A CHEMICAL ELEMENT WITH THE SYMBOL TI AND ATOMIC NUMBER 22. IT IS A
LUSTROUS TRANSITION METAL WITH A SILVER COLOR, LOW DENSITY, AND HIGH STRENGTH.
TITANIUM IS RESISTANT TO CORROSION IN SEA WATER, AQUA REGIA, AND CHLORINE.

Applications

When discussing the titanium industry, it is useful to highlight that the titanium metal sector (i.e. that which produces and consumes titanium metal) is an important but relatively small component of the titanium industry overall accounting for only 6% of total titanium consumption. The major market for titanium, accounting for 90% of demand, is titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment. TiO2pigment is used to impart whiteness and opacity to paints, plastics, paper, inks, fibres, food and cosmetics.The remaining consumption of titanium is primarily in the manufacture of welding electrode fluxes.

Value chain

The schematic below provides an overview of the global titanium industry and identifies the main titanium raw materials, intermediate and final products in the supply chain and the main consumer industries. 

Raw materials

The raw materials for the titanium industry are TiO2-bearing minerals and higher-grade feedstocks beneficiated from the main TiO2-bearing mineral, ilmenite. Ilmenite is a relatively abundant mineral recovered from hard rock and sand deposits. The major commercially exploited hard rock deposits are in Canada, China, Norway and the Ukraine. The sand deposits, known as heavy mineral sands, are distributed globally, mostly in coastal regions of Australia, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Vietnam. Other naturally occurring titanium minerals recovered from heavy mineral sands include leucoxene and rutile. Beneficiated titanium feedstocks produced from ilmenite include chloride slag, sulphate slag, upgraded slag (UGS) and synthetic rutile.There are two primary technologies used to manufacture TiO2pigment – the sulphate process and the chloride process. These processes require different quality TiO2-bearing mineral feedstocks that are described as either sulphate feedstock or chloride feedstock. The main raw materials for the sulphate process are sulphate ilmenite (48-54% TiO2) and sulphate slag (76-82% TiO2). The chloride process typically requires higher grade feedstocks including chloride ilmenite (58-64% TiO2), chloride slag (85-88% TiO2), synthetic rutile (90-92% TiO2), upgraded slag (95% TiO2) and rutile (94-97% TiO2).

Segments

TiO2pigment products have two crystal structures, the rutile structure and the anatase structure. Some customers prefer anatase, which is only produced by the sulphate process, whilst others prefer rutile, which is produced by both processes. Anatase products are less efficient at scattering light and are generally less suitable for brightly coloured decorative applications such as high-gloss paints. Durable protective coatings such as motor vehicle paints require rutile, which has excellent UV resistance and withstands harsh weather conditions. Several industry sectors including the paper, food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, fibres and photocatalyst sectors require anatase pigments.                

Supply/demand

Consumption of titanium is typically described in terms of TiO2 units, whereby one TiO2 unit is equivalent to one metric tonne of contained TiO2.  

Estimated global demand for titanium is ~7.5 million TiO2 units per annum.

The TiO2 pigment industry is a mature industry with a long-term compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in line with global GDP growth. The projected long-term growth rate for this industry is marginally above 2% pa. The CAGR for the titanium metal industry is approximately 6% pa.Demand for sulphate and chloride feedstocks is evenly split with roughly 3.7 million TiO2 units of sulphate feedstock and a similar quantity of chloride feedstock consumed annually. Looking ahead, the chloride sector is projected to grow at a faster rate than the sulphate sector primarily in response to China pursuing the development of chloride technology in favour of the older and less environmentally friendly sulphate technology.

Demand for sulphate and chloride feedstocks is evenly split with roughly 3.7 million TiO2 units of sulphate feedstock and a similar quantity of chloride feedstock consumed annually. Looking ahead, the chloride sector is projected to grow at a faster rate than the sulphate sector primarily in response to China pursuing the development of chloride technology in favour of the older and less environmentally friendly sulphate technology.   

Outlook

A primary concern of TiO2pigment companies going forward is the quality and availability of the titanium minerals.  In 2018 there was a series of supply disruptions that resulted in a supply shortfall of approximately 240,000 TiO2units. This shortfall was most evident in the chloride pigment sector where the supply of chloride slag was interrupted and there is declining availability of rutile and chloride ilmenite.

In the sulphate sector, there has also been a decline in the production of sulphate ilmenite in two of the major producer countries, India and Vietnam. In these countries government intervention and the implementation of policies restricting the mining and export of ilmenite have drastically reduced export quantities in recent years.

Concurrently, the titanium minerals industry is experiencing declining valuable heavy mineral assemblages and grades at current and planned operations. To sustain current levels of production there is a requirement for technical innovation, the development of unconventional orebodies and significant capital expenditure. These circumstances are favourable for the development of the Barrambie Project, which is a potential source of sulphate and chloride grade titanium feedstocks.

TITANIUM PROJECTS WE ARE WORKING ON
BARRAMBIE TITANIUM VANADIUM IRON PROJECT
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