Roskill: Green magnesium moving to commercial reality; China’s dominance under threat?

While China remains, for now, the world’s leading magnesium producer, alternative green technology-driven projects elsewhere are attracting attention as the industry in general looks to reduce its carbon footprint, and even China starts to close inefficient capacities.


London: UK, Aug. 27, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Back in the 1990s, the magnesium metal market was dominated by supply from North America (46%), what is now the CIS (25%) and western Europe (19%). Then came the rapid ascent of production in China and with it a flood of low-cost magnesium. The result was dramatic. By the early 2000s production in France, Italy and Norway had ended. Producers in Canada had conceded defeat by 2008 and the US industry was reduced to just one player that would probably not still be around were it not for punitive anti-dumping duties imposed on imports of Chinese magnesium.

Today, well over 80% of the world’s magnesium comes from China. US output is for the domestic market and most CIS production is captive to titanium sponge. There would probably not be any production in Israel if the Dead Sea were not already being exploited for other commodities. A few new plants have been built outside China over the last decade but they have largely not been hugely successful.

A major distinction to be made is that non-Chinese plants typically rely on electrolytic processing, which is comparatively clean but usually expensive. Most production in China uses thermal processing, which is cheap but was developed in an age before environmental awareness came into vogue. Thermal processing generates huge amounts of GHGs.

There is a substantial surplus of production capacity in China. Some older, smaller plants have already been closed. Others will likely follow and at the same time efforts are being made to reduce the carbon footprint of the industry in general.

While Roskill considers that further conventional plants are unlikely to be built in China, or anywhere else, new technologies are emerging.

Projects underway in Canada, Australia and the USA, several at advanced stages of development, are based on proprietary technology, three of them are based on waste materials (asbestos tailings or fly ash) and all would have much lower GHG emissions than existing processes. Although their combined capacity would amount to less than 10% of the current level of production, as the world looks towards a more sustainable future, it could be that these more environmentally friendly projects gain traction and become the start of a shift to green magnesium.


Contact Data