- Fluorspar is the commercial name for the naturally occurring mineral fluorite, composed of calcium and fluorine (CaF2).
- Fluorspar is the predominant commercial source for the chemical element fluorine.
- Fluorine is a non-metallic element and the lightest of the halogens and therefore largely irreplaceable in its use.
- There are two principal commercial grades of fluorspar: Metallurgical grade (60-96% CaF2) and acid grade (+97% CaF2).
- Metallurgical grade fluorspar accounts for approximately 35-40% of total fluorspar production with the principal applications being:
- Steel production – used as a flux to lower the melting temperature and increase the chemical reactivity to help the absorption and removal of sulphur, phosphorus, carbon and other impurities in the slag
- Cement – used as a flux to speed up the calcination process and enables the kiln to operate at lower temperatures
- Acid grade fluorspar accounts for approximately 60-65% of total fluorspar production with the principal applications being:
- Aluminium production – used to produce aluminium fluoride (ALF3) which acts as a flux to lower the bath temperature in the manufacture of aluminium
- Manufacture of hydrofluoric acid (HF) – the primary source of all fluorochemicals (the single largest consumer of fluorspar), a wide range of applications include:
- Fluorocarbons e.g. refrigerant gases, propellants, etc
- Electrical and electronic appliances
- Lithium batteries
- Pharmaceuticals, polymers and agrochemicals
- Petrochemical catalysts
Where is Fluorspar Produced and Consumed?
- World production of fluorspar: 5.7Mt – 6.0Mt per year
- The major producing regions are:
- China (>50% of the world’s production)
- South Africa
- The major consuming regions are:
- North America
How much does it cost?
- Since the global financial crisis in 2009, there has been a contraction in acid-spar demand due to a combination of environmental legislation and demand – Fluorspar prices have followed such trend.
- Acid grade fluorspar has historically commanded the highest price however the price gap between this and metallurgical grade fluorspar has reduced recently.
- In 2017 prices for acid-spar have started to recover in China, export price for acid-spar (FOB China) – traditional benchmark price – is currently published as US$400-420/tonne.
Specific Issues For Fluorspar
- There are no net exporters of fluorspar in Europe and all EU Member States are reliant on imports.
- China produces >50% of the world’s fluorspar.
- Chinese fluorspar exports have continued to decline with acid-spar exports decreasing since 2011 – internal demand and production/export restrictions.
- China may become a net importer in the future.
- China listed fluorspar as a strategic mineral in 2017.
- USA considers fluorspar as a Strategic Mineral.
- North America and Europe are the largest acid-spar consumers outside China, all net importers – potential risk to long term security of supply.
- No large scale commercial alternative.
- Future demand for fluorspar will highly depend on the development and use of fluorocarbon substitutes.
- Industry view is that demand for acid-spar will increase by 4-5% per year over the next 5 years and prices are forecast to increase in the medium to long-term.
Mongolian Fluorspar Exports “Will Replace” Chinese Products over the next few years as China continues to ramp up domestic consumption. Chinese prices are at record
Where is fluorspar mined? The main export commodities are copper, apparel, livestock, animal products, cashmere, wool, hides, fluorspar, other nonferrous metals, coal, and crude oil. GobiShoo LLC.