As the world’s largest consumer of zircon sand, China is heavily dependent on imports due to the domestic limited resources, which restricts the development of Chinese zirconium product industry.
In 2012, China’s zircon sand (including concentrates and tailings) import volume reached 78.01 tons, a year-on-year decrease of 12.16%; import price of zircon sand in the fourth quarter dropped by 27% compared to the first quarter. The continuously falling price is good news for Chinese zirconium products manufacturers.
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In today’s China, major zirconium products are still concentrated in traditional zirconium chemicals such as zirconium silicate and zirconium oxychloride, while concerning downstream zirconia composites and zirconium metal manufacturing, there still exist a big technology gap with foreign counterparts.
In recent years, following the decline in market demand and profitablity of traditional zirconium chemicals, the Chinese zirconium products industry is speeding up structural adjustment, leading players like Guangdong Orient Zirconic Ind Sci & Tech Co., Ltd., State Nuclear BaoTi Zirconium Industry Company, Jiangxi Kingan Hi-Tech Co.,Ltd are increasing investment in zirconia composites, nuclear-grade zirconium sponge and other high-end products, of which, nuclear-grade zirconium sponge will be a future focus in the industrial development.
Based on the analysis of global and China zircon sand supply and demand pattern as well as the development of major Chinese zirconium product segments, Global and China Zirconium Industry Report, 2012-2013 highlights the financial status and development planning of key domestic companies.
Being China’s technology leader with core comprehensive competencies, Guangdong Orient Zirconic Ind Sci & Tech Co., Ltd. is also one of manufacturers with the most complete variety of zirconium products worldwide. In 2012, the company on the one hand increased investment in Australian zircon sands to reduce the impact of imported zircon sand price fluctuation on costs; on the other hand, the product investment priority shifted to metal zirconium. By 2013, the company’s nuclear-grade zirconium sponge capacity is expected to reach 1,150 tons.
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As one of China’s largest producers of zirconium chemicals, Jiangxi Kingan Hi-Tech Co.,Ltd has had annual production capacity of 77,800 tons of zirconium chemicals as of 2012. In recent years, in addition to increasing investment in zirconium oxychloride project so as to stabilize competitive edge in zirconium chemicals market, the company has also cooperated with AREVA in the construction of the 5,000 tons nuclear-grade zirconium sponge project, which has been under construction at the end of 2012.
Aohan China Titanium Industry Co., Ltd. is currently the largest zirconium sponge production enterprise in China, as of end-2012, it has been provided with production capacity of 700 tons of industrial zirconium sponge; over the next 3-5 years, the company will add new capacity of 300 tons nuclear-grade zirconium sponge, meanwhile with the zirconium sponge production technology up to the domestic medium level.
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