What are Borates And Where Do I Use Them?
- Boron, the semi metallic element with atomic number 5, does not occur in nature as free element. It rather occurs in the form of a natural mineral associated with other elements such as Na, Ca, and Mg.
- Among over 200 naturally occurring boron minerals, the most commercially important borates (known as the salts of industry) are: Tincal, Colemanite and Ulexite.
- About 80% of borates placed on the EU market are used in intermediate uses such as in the manufacture of glass & frits and/or for the synthesis of new substances, in mixtures below the specific concentration limits, and in biocidal applications.
- The remaining one-fifth is used in agriculture (13-14%), in articles (4-5%) and in other uses (2-3%) such as coatings, industrial fluids and/or metallurgical applications.
- In addition, boron is in essential micronutrient for normal, productive plant growth and is one of seven essential micronutrients for plants according to the EU Fertiliser Regulation (2003/2003/EC).
- Furthermore, for safety reasons, the use of borates is essential in nuclear power plants.
Where are Borates Produced?
- Turkey has almost three-fourths (about 73%) of the world’s total boron reserves.
- Having Etimine S.A as the only representative of Turkish borates produced in Turkey and placed on the EU market, Eti Maden IGM is the global leader of the boron sector. Exporting 97% of its boron products to over 100 countries (i.e. about 400 different destinations), the exclusive Turkish State Enterprise Eti Maden is the biggest borate producer in the world and also has the largest share of the world boron market
Specific Issues for Borates
- The harmonised classification of Borates under the EU’s Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation (CLP) in 2009 was the step towards the EU’s stifling of Borates supply.
- The subsequent listing of borates as substances of very high concern on the candidate list of the EU’s REACH Regulation and the prioritisation attempts of Borate substances for Authorisation under REACH are creating further obstacles.
- Despite having scientific evidence from Chinese studies, which were further supported by Turkish studies conducted more recently, Eti Maden was not given the opportunity to put this peer-reviewed new scientific knowledge through the official European procedure directly due to the fact that in order to submit an Annex XV dossier, you must be part of a Member State.
- Ultimately, authorisation aims for substitution of all SVHCs. Applying the generic exemptions, about 20% of the volumes of borates remain in the scope of authorisation and when considering the uses for which there will never be a substitute (i.e. nuclear and/ or agricultural applications), this figure drops below 2-3%.
- All in all it is underlined that these matters are essentially political. Policy makers need to be aware that critical raw materials such as borates are essential for the EU industry and they need political support.