Fluorspar market awaits outcome as it readies to meet at Fluorine Forum 2022
Canada’s beleaguered newcomer to the global fluorspar supply sector, Canada Fluorspar Inc. (CFI), is awaiting news, potentially by mid-October 2022, of a positive outcome to end its period of interim receivership and closure since February 2022.
On 30 August, Newfoundland’s Supreme Court granted an extension to finalise the purchase with investors who plan to restart the operation, reported local news agencies.
Title image Digging out of a hole: The fluorspar mine at St Lawrence, Newfoundland, having only recently emerged into a grateful market was closed in February, and is now hoping for a new owner and potential restart in October. Courtesy CFI
All parties, and apparently there was much international interest in acquiring the facility, are expected to return to court in late September to seek formal approval of the sale, which must be completed by 17 October.
It was reported that Phil Clarke of Grant Thornton, who is acting as monitor for the sales process, which is being carried out under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, said: “My understanding is the intent of the successful bidder is to reopen the mine.”
The successful bidder out of “multiple bids” was selected on 18 August.
The court process had freed up C$6.5m to maintain the operation while the company and creditors worked on a restructuring plan and search for new investors.
All but a few of the 250 employees have been laid off, and CFI owes almost C$128m to some 250 organisations. CFI’s former owner, private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, withdrew monetary assistance in February 2022.
The mine at St Lawrence, Burin Peninsula, Newfoundland, has had a chequered history of development and production. It was reactivated in 2017 following almost 40 years of exploration and attempts to restart operations since the mine closed in 1978 (for history and details see Fluorspar revival in Newfoundland).
However, it then experienced several setbacks, including stalled construction and mine expansion, processing issues, and a new docking terminal, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic from 2020.
July 2021 witnessed somewhat of a false dawn for the operation when CFI celebrated its first fluorspar shipment from the new marine terminal at Blue Beach in St. Lawrence Harbour, with its 17-metre draft permitting use of larger vessels for export markets.
According to the company, the St Lawrence Fluorspar Project resource exceeds 22m tonnes of fluorspar, and has a mine life of approximately 30 years.
CFI has invested just over US$400m in the operation, which has a production capacity of around 180,000 tpa acidspar.
Emerging fluorspar source in Utah
A few years ago, CFI was ahead of the pack of emerging new fluorspar producers. New and alternative sources of fluorspar remain in demand by the market following several years of production capacity loss through closing operations worldwide – most recently Samine’s El Hammam underground fluorspar mine in Morocco in December 2021.
Consumers also had some concern earlier in the year from the world’s leading fluorspar producer, Koura Global, Mexico. Production levels at the company’s Las Cuevas Mine in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, were reduced owing to safety issues affecting an access ramp and Koura subsequently declared force majeure for its H1 2022 supply contracts.
A major factor has also been the transformation of the Chinese fluorspar industry, for many years the world’s leading supplier of acidspar and metspar grades.
In recent years China has seen a dramatic decline in domestic fluorspar ore quality and operating mines, while at the same time its domestic market (fluorochemicals, and more recently Li-ion batteries) has increased consumption. The upshot being that China is now a net importer of fluorspar.
Therefore, fluorspar consumers are following the fate of CFI with great interest (see Fluorine growth in batteries & semiconductors | Supply tightens).
They will also be closely following the progress of Ares Strategic Mining Inc.’s fluorspar mine and plant development at Delta, Utah, potentially to become the USA’s sole fluorspar producer.
Ares is developing the Lost Sheep Fluorspar Project, owning 5,982 acres hosting 353 claims, including mine permits, located in the Spor Mountain area (a former fluorspar mining district), Juab county, Utah, approximately 214 km south-west of Salt Lake City (for details see Fluorspar supply sources emerge).
Technical studies confirm grades at Lost Sheep averaging approximately 75% CaF2, higher than grades from Mexico and Vietnam.
In July 2022, the company received plant equipment and materials for construction of its planned 3-storey metspar plant in co-operation with its strategic partner, Mujim Group of China (itself a fluorspar processor in China, Laos, and Thailand).
On 18 August Ares announced the approval of US$4.92m financing from the US Dept. of Agriculture under its Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program (initiated to promote rural development).
Elsewhere, Ares is evaluating a 4,800ha fluorspar property 200km north-west of Fort Nelson, north British Columbia, where it owns 100% of mineral claims; and has signed an agreement to develop the Campbell Croster Fluorspar Project, Kentucky.
At present, the USA’s total fluorspar market requirement is all imported, and in 2018 the US government classified fluorspar as a Critical Mineral, “deemed critical to US national security and the economy”.
According to the USGS, US fluorspar imports in the first quarter of 2022 were 114,000 tonnes (91% acidspar; 9% metspar). The leading sources of acidspar imports were Mexico (60%), Vietnam (22%), and South Africa (17%); Mexico accounted for almost all the metspar. Total US fluorspar imports for 2021 were estimated at 470,000 tonnes.
Fluorspar market to gather in Hanoi, October 2022
The latest developments on all of the above, plus trends and outlook for fluorspar supply and demand are to be presented and discussed at IMFORMED’s upcoming Fluorine Forum 2022, 11-13 October, at the Pan Pacific Hanoi, followed by a Field Trip to the Nui Phao operation of Masan High-Tech Materials on 14 October (full details here).
The conference will be essential to all those active or with an interest in the fluorine mineral supply chain, from exploring, developing and mining fluorspar sources and alternative F sources, through logistics and processing, to end use applications and market demand trends.
The Forum starts with a Welcome Reception, sponsored by Masan High-Tech Materials at the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site the Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long, a complex of historic imperial buildings located in the centre of Hanoi. It was first constructed in 1011 under the reign of Emperor Lý Thái Tổ of Lý dynasty.
Acidspar market: the view from Vietnam
William Parry-Jones, Head of Sales & Marketing Vietnam/Tungsten Raw Materials, Masan High-Tech Resources Corp., Vietnam
Global fluorspar supply: what is changing in the industry?
Euston Witbooi, Research Analyst, Project Blue, South Africa
Sustainable mining at the world’s largest developed fluorspar source
Wiekus Coetzer, Global Head of Mining, Koura Global, Mexico
Pakistan: Fluorspar and Gateway to Critical Minerals
Shahid Hamid Jafri, CEO, Perfect Associates Ltd, Pakistan
The role of make-up water, gangue mineralogy & electrokinetic potential in fluorite flotation
Johan Brits, Project Executive, SepFluor Ltd, South Africa
New European source of fluorspar with by-product lithium
Peter Robinson, Managing Director, Land Regeneration Management, UK
Fluorochemicals trends & outlook
John D. Zielinski, Executive Buyer, Chemours, USA
Impact of e-mobility on fluorspar demand
Oliver Rhode, CEO, XENOPS Chemicals GmbH & Co. KG, Germany
The role of fluorine in battery systems: Beyond electrolytes
Chris Potgieter, Director, BFluor Chemicals (Pty) Ltd, South Africa
Hydrofluoric acid: fundamental precursor for organic & inorganic fluorochemicals review & outlook
Samantha Wietlisbach, Director Minerals Research and Analysis, S&P Global Commodity Insights, Switzerland
Comparison of LBD and HBD aluminium fluoride in aluminium smelting
Hanna Sjoberg, CEO, Alufluor AB, Sweden
Diversification opportunities offered by BCT technologies: FSA to HF, HF to AlF3, HF to LiF/LiPF6
Emre Sen, Sales Manager-Fluorine Technologies, Buss ChemTech AG, Switzerland