Close

15th December 2017

Magnesium

Magnesium

What Is Magnesium and Where Do I Use It?

  • Magnesium (chemical symbol Mg) is the eighth most abundant metal comprising 2.1% of the earth’s surface.
  • Magnesium is a metal which does not occur in its elemental form in nature, but is found in different forms in minerals (dolomite, magnesite, carnallite) as well as in seawater and brines.
  • 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 2016 was around 878 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 (mainly electrolytic process) outside China is mainly supported by anti-dumping duties.

How much does it cost?

  • Compared to most other mineral based raw materials, Mg pure and alloys show a stable price since the last quarter of 2008.
  • Magnesium prices are in the $2 to $3/kg range.

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.
  • A new primary smelter in Turkey started up end of 2015, but due to its size does not have a large impact in the supply situation within the EU.
  • 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 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.
  • Worldwide demand is expected to increase in the next decade. In particular, the development of R&D technologies could significantly impact the long-term demand for magnesium.
  • Environmental and legislative influences are expected to promote the use of magnesium compared to steel and aluminium. As lightweight and fuel-efficient vehicles gain centre stage in the automotive landscape, magnesium is gaining traction as a preferred manufacturing material.

Applications

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

Reviewed by

IMA