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10th May 2016

Magnesium

Magnesium

What Is Magnesium And Where Do I Use It?

  • Magnesium is the sixth most abundant metal comprising 2.5% of the earth’s surface.
  • On a volume basis, magnesium is the lightest structural metal: one quarter the weight of steel, two thirds the weight of aluminium, and same light weighting potential as carbon fibres. Magnesium can be cast, rolled, extruded, machined, and forged as any other metal.
  • Magnesium is used in a variety of industry sectors, such as transport (automotive, aircraft, train), consumer electronics (laptop, mobile phone, tablet), steel industry, Titanium and Zirconium production, pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical production and medical implants. Magnesium, as alloying element, is essential for the aluminium industry.
  • Magnesium may also be a preference in all light-weighting vehicle concepts, hydrogen storage and advanced battery technology.

Where is Magnesium Produced?

  • The worldwide primary magnesium production in 2015 was around 845 Kt, and 85% of global demand was delivered from China.
  • Since 1990, cheaper and less CAPEX intensive processes have experienced a rapid growth with the introduction of Pidgeon process technology in China.
  • The remaining primary production outside China is mainly supported by anti-dumping duties
  • Additionally, in 2015, a new primary smelter started in Turkey.

Specific Issues for Magnesium

  • Magnesium’s criticality is not based on geographical lack of raw material in Europe, rather on trade issues, since China’s production and export policy made primary production in Europe redundant.
  • The last smelter in Europe closed in 2001, since European based smelters were unable to compete with low cost Chinese production, and as a result European primary demand depends mainly on China imports.
  • Europe has maintained a solid Mg recycling industry of significant size, providing stable employment across Europe.
  • Magnesium alloys are for both weight saving and application performance an ideal contribution for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in a vehicles operating life, but also a material of choice for all new vehicle concepts, such as electrical, hydrogen and smart city automobiles.
  • The main drawback for a wider use e.g. in the Automotive industry, is the lack of a solid supply base in combination with competitive Mg production outside China.
  • Magnesium is one of the main alloying elements for Aluminium alloys providing e.g. unique properties to aluminium cans, aerospace and transport applications and substitution is technically not feasible.

Applications

Mg Al cans_Credit EAA
computer-1231889_1280
Mg hot metal desuplh_Credit ALMAMET
Source: EEA   Source: ALMAMET

Reviewed by

IMA