Abrasive Trends – Global Trends Driving the Market for Garnet
9 August 2010
Garnet is a material that holds its own in the water jet cutting and blast cleaning sectors. The reason for its popularity in these markets is the fact that it has proven to be a cost effective alternative media for applications where silica sand, which is now known to have health risks, would traditionally have been used. In addition to its non-toxicity, the material is considered to be eco-friendly as it can be recycled plus it offers low material consumption rate, purity, and high productivity rates In addition, garnet produces much less dust than other abrasive materials, and spills are relatively benign and easy to clean up..
Outside its two main areas of use, garnet coated papers and cloths are mainly used for sanding wood and for the finishing of plastics, glass, softer metals etc..
Other natural and manmade materials compete with garnet in nearly all of the applications for which garnet can be used and garnet is gradually being replaced by synthetic abrasives such as fused aluminium oxide and silicon carbide for abrasive applications albeit not at the same pace as some other natural abrasives for reasons already stated.
Garnet today totally dominates the water jet cutting market, with 99% or more of the market, while in sandblasting, it only accounts for 1% or less. The majority of industrial Garnet is used as a loose grain abrasive or as a sand blasting medium. The finer sizes of Garnet grains are used in the water cutting technology market. The coarse sizes of lower quality industrial Garnet (relatively inert and resist chemical degradation) are used as a filtration medium in water purification systems.
Garnet is well suited for abrasive blasting / surface cleaning in fields like shipyards, petrochemical industry, building industry, non-ferrous surfaces etc. Water (Abrasive) jet cutting is more prevalent in North America and Europe where fine grade garnet is injected in a stream of high velocity of water to cut marbles, granites, high strength steel, aero space & automotive glass.
The world resources of garnet are large and also occur as deposits in crystalline limestone, pegmatite, serpentinites and vein deposits. Garnet is often found as an accessory mineral in a large variety of rocks, particularly gneisses and schist’s. Almost 100% of garnet sold is both sized and graded especially for industrial applications.
Australia is the largest producer of garnet. Globally some 350,000 tons are mined annually (2008 figures) with approximately 40% of this capacity coming from Australia.
Australia, China, India and the U.S.A. are the main producers of Garnet, where they are mainly mined for foreign and domestic markets. Deposits in Russia are mined mainly for internal consumption. Other source countries for Garnet include Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Pakistan, South Africa, Spain, Thailand and the Ukraine.
Currently, the USA accounts for nearly 25% of the total world consumption of industrial Garnet, Western Europe accounts for approximately 17% of demand, followed by the Middle East with 11%. (The consumption calculations do not take account of stockpiling and are apparent consumptions).
One of the largest water jet cutting markets for Garnet in Europe is in Italy where it is widely used in the stone market.
With the rapid growth in the Chinese economy, the production capacity and demand for Garnet has increased in recent years. Some estimates say that the Chinese garnet market is now increasing at a rate of 10-15,000 tonnes per annum. The major producers in China are Ding-Long Trading Co. Ltd and Leshan CarborundumNatural Abrasives Co.
Market trends and pricing
Over the past few years, the garnet industry has encountered higher production costs which has tightened profit margins. This has resulted in some less competitive players exiting this market. The producers that have remained in business usually mine garnet in conjunction with one or two other minerals. Excess production capacity combined with supplies that vary in quality, grain size, and mineral type will keep Garnet prices down. That said there are wide variations in prices within and across markets and garnet used in water jet cutting usually has a premium over other crude/refined garnet.
Garnet is not expected to have as big a decline in the current economic climate as other abrasive grains. Garnet abrasives is forecast to grow modestly and follow the expected increased consumption of steel as we come out of the world recession and with the awareness of the health risks of the inhalation of airborne crystalline silica dust.
Please note: The data contained in this article has been sourced with permission from “Abrasives (grains, bonded, coated and superabrasives) a global strategic report”. The full report is available from www.intelligence-market.com