Industrial Minerals are a large group of minerals and rocks that can be defined as non-metallic and non fuel. They are mined and processed for their inherent chemical or physical properties rather than for conversion to their contained elements.
Industrial minerals are essential to modern life. Without industrial mineral based refractories to line furnaces or kilns, no metals, ceramics, glass or cement could be produced. Industrial minerals are the building blocks of glass and ceramics and play important roles in paper paint and plastics as fillers, pigments and flame retardants. They fertilise the soil and form the basis for many inorganic chemical manufacture. Applications range from high tech electronics and batteries to the more mundane such as cat litter. Some minerals or ores such as bauxite are primarily used for the production of metal but have important non-metallurgical applications, in the case of bauxite in refractories, abrasives, chemicals and cement. Titanium minerals, ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene and anatase are primarily used for the production of white pigments with metals production only about 15% of consumption.
Pricing of industrial minerals is often opaque. There are some published prices of some grades but prices can vary significantly depending on grade, location and other factors, especially logistics costs in the case of delivered prices. Taking the example of silica sand, a construction sand produced with little or no processing can be only a few dollars per tonne (or whatever local currency it is sold in) ex-quarry but in some cases for every 50km of road transport a unit of price equivalent to the ex works price is added. Going up to glass sand, frac sand or foundry sand the price increase several times, while high purity glass grades can fetch $300 or more and ultra-high purity grades can cost several thousand dollars per tonne.
Some of the largest consumers of industrial minerals are listed below with a selection of the mineral used in each. There are vast quantities of rocks and minerals used as aggregates in the construction industry as well plus some more specialised applications such as perlite, pumice, vermiculite in insulation products and large quantities of cement and gypsum. Some high specification minerals are also used in electronics, advanced ceramics, cosmetics and other applications, It should be noted that minerals are often used in meny different consuming sectors, each of which has its own desired specfications.
Refractories – Alumina; Andalusite; Bauxite; Chromite; Diatomite; Dolomite; Graphite; Kaolin; Kyanite; Magnesia; Olivine; Perlite; Pyrophyllite; Silica; Sillimanite; Zircon
Abrasives – Alumina; Bauxite; Diamond; Diatomite; Dolomite; Emery; Feldspar; Garnet; Limestone; Olivine; Perlite; Pumice; Silica; Silicon Carbide; Staurolite; Zircon
Glass – Anorthosite; Borates; Celestite; Dolomite; Feldspar; Lime; Limestone; Lithium; Magnesia; Nepheline Syenite; Rare Eaths; Silica; Soda Ash; Sodium Bicarbonate; Sodium Sulfate
Ceramics – Andalusite; Ball Clay; Borates; Dolomite; Feldspar; Kaolin; Kyanite; Lithium; magnesia; Nepheline Syenite; Pyrophyllite; Silica; Talc; Wollastonite; Zircon
Fillers/Extenders/Pigments (for paper, paint, plastics etc) – Anorthosite; Barite (Barytes); Bentonite; Diatomite; Dolomite; Feldspar; Ilmenite; Iron Oxide; Kaolin; Leucoxene; Limestone; Magnesite and Magnesia; Mica; Nepheline Syenite; Perlite; Pumice; Rutile; ; Silica; Talc; Vermiculite; Wollastonite; Zircon
Agriculture (for fertiliser, animal feed insecticide carriers etc) – Attapulgite; Bentonite; Borates; Diatomite; Dolomite; Gypsum; Kaolin; Lime; Limestone; Lithium; Magnesite and magnesia; Phosphate Rock; Potash; Sulfur (Sulphur); Vermiculite; Zeolites
Drilling Muds – Attapulgite; Barite (Barytes); Bentonite; Cement; Gypsum; Halloysite; Lime
Batteries – Graphite; Lithium; Rare Earths; Sulfur
Chemicals/flame retardants – Alumina Hydrate; Bauxite; Borates; Bromine; Celestite; Chromite; Dolomite; Fluorspar; Iodine; Lime; Limestone; Lithium; Magnesite and magnesia; Phosphate Rock; Potash; Rare Earths; Soda Ash; Sodium Bicarbonate; Sodium Silicate; Sodium Sulfate (Salt Cake); Sulfur (Sulphur); Zircon and Zirconia