Ilmenite is a heavy mineral mainly used as a source of titanium. Ilmenite is iron black metallic oxide comprising titanium dioxide and iron. Ilmenite occurs as igneous rocks and is present into layers as a result of magmatic segregation. Heavy opaque crystal of ilmenite deposit on bottom of magma chambers and ilmenite is collected in layers. Ilmenite is also a constituent of sand and is commonly accompanied by small amounts of magnetite, rutile and zircon among others. Other sources of ilmenite include pegmatites, sedimentary rocks and metamorphic rocks.
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Ilmenite is magnetic and is separated from other minerals using magnetic separators. Ilmenite is processed into synthetic rutile and used as a feedstock in the production of titanium pigment. Conversion of ilmenite to synthetic rutile increases the titanium dioxide concentration in the mineral. Synthetic rutile is the fastest growing application segment for ilmenite and this trend is anticipated to continue for the next six years. Ilmenite is abundantly available in nature and is primarily used in the production of titanium metal and titanium pigment. Titanium is generally extracted from ilmenite using chloride process or by reacting ilmenite with sulfuric acid. Titanium dioxide extracted from ilmenite is used as pigment in several industries including plastic, paints & coatings and paper among others. Over 90% of the global titanium dioxide production is used as pigment in these application segments.
Abundant and easy availability of ilmenite has been among foremost factors driving demand for ilmenite. Demand for ilmenite is profoundly dependent on demand for titanium metal and titanium dioxide. Major end user industries for titanium dioxide include automotive, packaging, construction and electronics among several others. Increasing demand for titanium dioxide is among major factors driving demand for ilmenite and the trend is anticipated to continue for a foreseeable future. Moreover, macroeconomic factors such as GDP growth are also among major growth factors for ilmenite market. Chloride process used for production of titanium pigment from ilmenite leads to production of harmful residues such as iron chloride. Owing to generation of hazardous wastes, there has been increasing intervention of various regulatory bodies to regulate the processing of ilmenite which has been a major factor restraining ilmenite market growth. Research and development to develop an eco friendly and efficient process to produce titanium from ilmenite is anticipated to offer huge growth opportunity in the market.
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Asia Pacific dominates the global ilmenite market and the trend is expected to continue during the forecast period. High growth in several end user industries in the emerging economies of India and China is expected to drive market growth in Asia Pacific. Asia Pacific is also expected to be the fastest growing region for ilmenite demand during the forecast period. North America is the second largest market for ilmenite closely followed by Europe. Demand for ilmenite is expected to grow at a sluggish rate in North America and Europe primarily owing to market saturation in several end user industries. Developing economies of South America and Africa are anticipated to offer huge growth opportunity in the market.
Ilmenite market is highly fragmented and several regional players engage in ilmenite extraction. Some of the key players in the ilmenite market include Yucheng Jinhe Industrial Co., Ltd., Jiangxi Jinshibao Mining Machinery Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Shanghai Yuejiang Titanium Chemical Manufacturer Co., Ltd. and Abbott Blackstone among others.