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State of raw materials 2013 The sole US-based mining company expanded its mines and is testing new precious metals refinery technology. Canada plans to launch a new platinum and palladium exchange-traded fund that would be backed by physical metal held at the Royal Canadian Mint and intended for long-term investment rather than short-term investment on price fluctuations. Investors will be able to redeem the physical metal. Soda ash The total value of domestic soda ash (sodium carbonate) produced in 2012 was estimated to be about $1.6 billion. Nearly half of the 14.5 million ton capacity of domestic soda ash producers is used by the glass industry. Other uses include chemicals, soap and detergent, desulfurizers, and pulp and paper. The largest deposit in the world is in the Green River Basin in Wyoming. China recently announced discovery of a large trona deposit in Tongbai County, ranking it the largest trona deposit in Asia and second only to the Wyoming deposit. Overall global demand for soda ash was expected to increase by 1.5 percent to two percent annually for the next several years, with most of the growth expected to be in China, India, Russia, and South America. If the domestic economy and export sales improve, US production may be higher in 2013. If the reports about a new trona discovery in China are confirmed, China may become the lowest-cost soda ash producer in Asia and a strong competitor with the US in the Far East soda ash markets. Talc and pyrophyllite Domestic talc production in 2012 was estimated to be 623,000 tons valued at $22 million and generated sales of about 571,000 tons valued at $90 million. Sales in 2012 were about seven percent more than on 2011. Talc is used to produce ceramics (primarily refractories) paint, paper, plastics, roofing, and cosmetics. About 260,000 tons was imported. Production of pyrophyllite, the aluminum silicate hydroxide mineral Al2Si4O10(OH)2, decreased slightly from 2011 levels. It is used to manufacture refractory products, ceramics, and paint. Sales of pyrophyllite declined slightly in 2012 because of the slow recovery of those sectors of the economy. No issues loom with access to talc or pyrophyllite. The US is self-sufficient in most grades of talc and related minerals. Domestic and world resources exceed estimated reserves by about fivefold. Tungsten More than one-half of the tungsten consumed in the US was used in cemented carbide parts for cutting and wear-resistant materials, primarily in the construction, metalworking, mining, and oil- and gas-drilling industries. The remaining tungsten was consumed to make tungsten heavy alloys for applications requiring high density; electrodes, filaments, wires, and other components for electrical, electronic, heating, lighting, and welding applications; steels, superalloys, and wear-resistant alloys; and chemicals for various applications. The estimated value of apparent consumption in 2012 was $1 billion. World tungsten supply was dominated by Chinese production and exports, but China also was the world’s leading tungsten consumer. China’s government has regulated its tungsten industry by limiting the number of exploration, mining, and export licenses; limiting or forbidding foreign investment; imposing constraints on mining and processing; and establishing quotas and imposing export taxes on tungsten materials. China’s government plans to expand exploration and increase ore reserves in approved mines, to control tungsten mine production, to improve its tungsten-processing technology, and to increase the development and sales of value-added downstream tungsten products. Yttriium Phosphors for color televisions, computer monitors, temperature sensors, trichromatic fluorescent lights, and X-ray-intensifying screens use the rareearth yttrium, which is mined as bastnasite in the US. China, however, produces most of the world’s supply of yttrium. India expects to become a significant producer with the opening of a new monazite processing plant. Although prices for yttrium metal and oxides were relatively stable for the first three quarters of 2012, they decreased significantly in the fourth quarter because of reduced demand, mostly in the energy and defense sectors. Yttria-stabilized zirconia applications include alumina–zirconia abrasives, bearings, seals, high-temperature refractories, jet-engine coatings, oxygen sensors in automobile engines, simulated gemstones, and cutting tools. The optical and lasing properties of yttrium-containing garnets make them useful for medicine, communications, sensing, industrial cutting and welding, nonlinear optics, photochemistry, high-temperature superconductors, and photoluminescent devices. Zirconium and hafnium Zircon is a coproduct from the mining and processing of heavy minerals. Typically, zirconium and hafnium are contained in zircon at a ratio of about 50 to 1. Two firms mined zircon from surface operations in Florida and Virginia. Ceramics, foundry applications, opacifiers, and refractories are the leading end uses for zircon. Other end uses of zircon include abrasives, chemicals, metal alloys, and welding rod coatings. The leading consumers of zirconium metal and hafnium metal are the nuclear energy and chemical process industries. China plans to increase its nuclear power development, which would likely increase demand for nuclear grade zirconium and hafnium, which are used for nuclear fuel cladding. n 28 www.ceramics.org | American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 92, No. 6


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