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Fluorspar

A critical additive in the extraction of other metals

Highlights

Properties and Uses

Fluorspar is a mineral composed of calcium fluoride (CaF2). Fluorspar specimens are classified into one of two industrial grades based on purity: acid grade fluorspar contains more than 97% CaF2 and metallurgical grade fluorspar contains less than 97% CaF2. Acid grade and metallurgical grade fluorspar are used in a variety of applications.

Acid grade fluorspar is the primary industrial source of fluorine in the world. It is mainly used to manufacture the following products:

  • Hydrofluoric acid (HF) - HF is used in a diverse set of industries.
    • Approximately 60% of HF is used as a feedstock for manufacturing a host of fluorocarbons such as CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs. These fluorocarbons are primarily used as refrigerants in air conditioners and as foam blowing agents/propellants in the manufacture of polymers.
    • HF is also used as a catalyst in petroleum alkylation, as a cleaning and etching agent in the semiconductor industry, and in the pickling of stainless steel.
  • Aluminum fluoride and synthetic cryolite - These are both critical raw materials in the electrolytic extraction of aluminum.

Metallurgical grade fluorspar is most commonly used as a flux in steel manufacturing, iron foundries and ferroalloy practices.

As a source of fluorine, fluorspar is virtually irreplaceable since there are no other known abundant sources of the element.

Global Supply

China and Mexico together account for over 70% of world fluorspar production. Approximately 70-75% of the fluorspar mined around the world is acid grade, with the rest being metallurgical grade. Both China and Mexico produce both grades. World resources of fluorspar are reasonably widely spread, with South Africa and Mongolia also having sizeable reserves.


Source: US Geological Survey 2015, MR Production Forecast & In-house Research

A 2011 report by the European Union named fluorspar as one of the ‘critical raw materials’ for Europe given the mineral’s economic importance and concentration of supply sources.