Andalusite is an aluminum nesosilicate mineral belonging to the sillimanite family and found in metamorphic rocks. It is a polymorph with two other minerals: kyanite and sillimanite and is named after Andalusia, a province in Spain. Since it is polymorph, it has similar chemical composition but different physical structure as compared to kyanite and sillimanite. Andalusite is commonly used for production of refractory materials and as a precursor for porcelain which is used in spark plugs and other products. Andalusite generally forms under low pressure and high temperature and converts to sillimanite or kyanite at different temperature-pressure regime. It comes in pink, green, yellow, violet and gray colors among others.
Andalusite is a precursor for production of refractory materials, which is used in linings for incinerators, furnaces, kilns and reactors. It can also be used for the production of crucibles. A refractory material should be physically and chemically stable at high temperatures, resistant to thermal shock and chemically inert. Andalusite has high purity, stable volume, good creep resistance, a high thermal shock resistance, metal penetration resistance and low porosity that make it suitable for production of refractory. The steel, glass, aluminum and cement industry are the key end users of andalusite.
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The andalusite industry is driven by the growth of refractory industry. The global demand for longer lasting, higher quality and low cost refractories is rising in emerging economies of the Asia Pacific, especially China and India due to rapid economic growth. The refractory industry follows the trend set by the main end user, the steel industry. The steel production makes up the majority of demand for refractories and profitability of the refractories industry is influenced by investment in steel production and steel plants. The continued demand for andalusite by China for its refractive industry will drive the demand of andalusite. Although end users other than the steel industry consume less andalusite, they have a strong impact on the growth of andalusite industry. The ceramic, glass, aluminum and cement industry contribute heavily to the growth of andalusite industry. However, fluctuations of major currency such as Euro and Dollar, rising oil prices and availability of substitutes such as bauxite could hamper the growth of this market.
The Asia Pacific is one the biggest consumer of andalusite due to the rapid growth of refractory industry in emerging economies such as China and India. China is the main producer and user of refractories, mainly driven by the steel industry. Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Russia and Turkey are some of the other key markets in this region. The future of the refractories will depend on emerging economies of Asia and Latin America. Brazil remains the most promising end market for andalusite in Latin America. The consumption of refractories will be moderate in the European Union and North America.
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The production of andalusite is concentrated in the hands of few companies who produce majority of andalusite for the global market. Some of the key players in this market are Andalusite Resources, Rhino Minerals Pty Ltd (IMERYS), Samrec Pty ltd (IMERYS), Damrec (IMERYS), Picobello Andalucita and Andalucita S.A. among others. Damrec, subsidiary of IMERYS, is the largest producer of Andalusite and has operations in China, South Africa, France and Peru. Andalusite Resources (Pty) Ltd is a newcomer to the Andalusite Industry and plans to increase its production capacity due to strong growth potential of andalusite market.