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Minerals

Fluorite

Fluorite, , also known as fluorspar, is calcium fluoride (CaF2), an industrial mineral with a broad spectrum of uses. Fluorite is important as a flux in steel manufacture and in aluminum production, as well as in the manufacture of hydrofluoric acid. Fluorine compounds are used in production of gasoline, plastics, insulating foams, refrigerants and also in refining of uranium concentrates. Fluorspar is also used in the glass and ceramic industries.

Fluorite appears in various colours such as green and purple, yellow-brown, rose and red. Its crystals, commonly cubic, are transparent or translucent and are fluorescent under certain conditions. (From www.USGS.gov)

Fluorspar is marketed in three grades according to end-use:
  1. Acid Grade:
    Containing min. 97% CaF2
  2. Metallurgical Grade:
    Containing 60-80% CaF2
  3. Ceramic Grade:
    Containing 88-97% CaF2
As published in Industrial Minerals in 2006, "China, the world's biggest producer (with output at around 2.4M tonnes in 2005 or 48.2% of world total), has been reducing exports for its own mushrooming hydrofluoric acid (HF) industry. Prices for acidspar have risen steadily in the past year as demand has outpaced production. Waning supply has left other major producers around the world struggling to meet demand and prompted interest in new supply projects." "The industry is already operating at 90% capacity with limited ability to expand." (IM 2006 Fluorspar)
IM 2006 Fluorspar.pdf

Recent prices (Industrial Minerals), Acidspar:
  1. China US port CIF $ 300 (Jan. 2008)
  2. South Africa FOB Durban $ 175-204 (Oct. 2007)
  3. Mexican FOB Tampico $ 180-200; (< 5 ppm As, P) $ 210-220 (Oct. 2007)

Molybdenum

Molybdenum (Mo) is a very soft (1-1.5) metallic element with a high melting point -- above 2,000 C. The basic ore mineral is molybdenite (MoS2), a distinctive bluish-gray, soft and flakey. The metal is used in many special alloys, particularly high-strength alloys and high-temperature steels. It is often combined with chromium, columbium (niobium), manganese, nickel, tungsten, or other alloy metals as well as cast iron to create hard, strong, and tough materials that are resistant to high stress, high temperature ranges and to highly corrosive environments (i.e. acids, salt and seawater). High-molybdenum content steels are often used in building applications such as bridges, swimming pool and water tank linings, and ship building. Steels used for cutting have high molybdenum content. It is one of the primary alloys in jet engine parts. It is also used as a dry lubricant resistant to high temperature. Molybdenite is also used as a catalyst in petroleum refining and plastics, and also as a pigment in paints, inks, plastics and rubber. It is used to form the anode in some x-ray tubes, particularly in mammography applications. Few of molybdenum's uses have acceptable substitutions.

Recent Moly oxide price: US$34 a pound (March 2008)

The majority of the world's molybdenum supply comes from the United States, China and South America. Ten companies account for roughly two-thirds of production with copper miners Codelco of Chile along with the U.S.'s Phelps Dodge producing about half of that. A Canadian company, Thompson Creek Metals Co., is expected to produce 21 million pounds this year, about 5 per cent of the world's supply. Two Chinese companies, Jinduicheng and Luanchuan, together produce about 23 million pounds a year. There are also hundreds of small molybdenum mines in China, many of which are being shut down over safety and environmental concerns. (From www.USGS.gov and Globe & Mail, March 5/07, "Is Moly on Brink of Being Mining Megastar", by Andy Hoffman and Sinclair Stewart)

Rhenium

Rhenium (Re), the last naturally-occurring element, was discovered in Germany in 1925. The process was so complicated and the cost so high that production was discontinued until early 1950 when tungsten-rhenium and molybdenum-rhenium alloys were prepared. These alloys found important applications in industry that resulted in a great demand for the rhenium produced from the molybdenite fraction of porphyry copper ores. Important uses of rhenium have been in platinum-rhenium catalysts, used primarily in producing lead-free, high-octane gasoline and in high-temperature superalloys used for jet engine components. (From www.USGS.gov)

Rhenium has very good corrosion resistance, a very high melting point, and is very dense. Tungsten is the only metal with a higher melting point than rhenium, and only platinum, iridium and osmium are denser than rhenium. Rhenium's specific gravity is 21.04 and its melting point is 3180°C. Rhenium was recovered from flue gases during the roasting of molybdenite concentrates and from the recycling of alloys and catalysts containing rhenium.

The two main uses for rhenium were in metal alloys and in catalysts, accounting for an estimated 70% and 20%, respectively, of rhenium use in 2004. The addition of rhenium improves the high temperature strength of nickel-based super-alloys. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), 60% of rhenium demand in 2004 was for use in nickel-based super-alloys. Rhenium was also alloyed with molybdenum and tungsten. Molybdenum alloys containing rhenium (between 41% and 47.5%) had greater ductility than other molybdenum alloys and were weldable. Rhenium was also alloyed with tungsten to increase ductility; rhenium contents of various alloys produced by Rhenium Alloys Inc. varied between 3% and 26%. Rhenium was used with platinum in reforming catalysts whose principal use was in the production of high-octane, lead-free gasoline. (From www.nrcan.gc.ca)

Recent Rhenium prices: US$8,600/kg (www.metalsplace.com, February 2008)

Strontium

Celestite, or Strontium sulfate (SrSO4), is mostly produced from sedimentary evaporate deposits. It is also found in veins sometimes associated with galena, sphalerite and other sulfides, and can be disseminated in carbonate-rich rocks or evaporate deposits. Carbonatites, intrusive carbonate rocks, are frequently high in celestite. Strontium is semi-hard (3-3.5), heavy, and transparent to translucent with a vitreous to pearly luster. It is fluorescent, sometimes thermoluminescent, and slightly soluble in water and acids. Strontium is used to make fireworks and flares (with a purplish crimson flame), and is also used in the refining of beet sugar, in the manufacture of rubber, paint and electrical batteries, as well as in the preparation of iridescent glass, classical TV tubes and porcelain. (From www.USGS.gov)

Recent Celestite prices (Industrial Minerals, Oct. 2007):

Mexican 94% SrSO4 FOB USA US$80-100
Spanish, Turkish, Moroccan FOB local US$55-80