Strengthening demand for zircon from China is encouraging high-grade mineral sands developer Matilda Zircon as it moves towards production at its Tiwi Islands project in Australia’s Northern Territory.
China’s increasing urbanization and the resulting demand for ceramic tiles is a driving force behind the need for zircon.
Indications are that Chinese zircon demand is robust with increasing signs of supply tightness in the market and it also appears that many Chinese firms are running close to capacity.
This has also resulted in price increases of between US$20 and US$50 per tonne in the first part of the year and further price increases are expected in the third quarter.
A recent article by Barry Fitzgerald in The Age newspaper stated: “The Chinese are crazy for ceramic tiles. So much so that on most recent estimates, they are laying an amazing 2.8 billion square metres of tiles on an annual basis. And as the ‘floor space’ in the country rises exponentially in line with the massive urbanization that is under way, the figure is only going to get bigger.
“All that has to be a good thing in the demand and pricing outlook for zircon, the mineral sand that gets used in ceramics - tiles, sanitary ware, tableware and the like.
“It is also useful stuff in the making of refractory’s and has high-end applications in TV screens and metals used in nuclear power plants and elsewhere.
“Now that the worst of the GFC has passed, experts on mineral sands consumption patterns reckon that the recovery in demand witnessed in the back half of calendar 2009 should gather pace in 2010.
“That is particularly so for zircon.”