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Visualizing Asia’s Dominance in the Titanium Supply Chain

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The following content is sponsored by IperionX

Asia’s Dominance in the Titanium Supply Chain

Titanium is a unique metal with important applications in defense, aerospace, automotives, and medicine. 

But before making it into all its end uses, titanium goes through a complex supply chain that involves both geopolitical and environmental challenges. 

This infographic sponsored by IperionX explores the titanium supply chain and highlights the countries that dominate it.

The Stages of Titanium Production

Titanium’s end-to-end production process typically involves five steps: 

  1. Mineral extraction
    The minerals ilmenite and rutile are the primary feedstocks for titanium production. These minerals are partly composed of titanium dioxide, which is later refined into titanium metal.
  1. Sponge metal production
    Ilmenite and rutile are refined into titanium sponge using the Kroll refining process.
  2. Ingots and melted products
    Titanium sponge is melted into ingots and other melted products.
  3. Mill products
    Finished products like bars, sheets, and tubes are manufactured from ingots. This process typically generates large amounts of machining scrap.
  4. Scrap
    Scrap or waste accounts for large material losses in the supply chain. The current scrap recirculation rate is less than 70%.

The Kroll process of refining titanium minerals to produce sponge metal is an 80-year-old method that involves high energy use and carbon emissions. It’s also heavily dependent on a few countries, primarily in Asia.

The Titanium Supply Chain

The mineral ilmenite accounts for 90% of all titanium mineral consumption. The other feedstock, rutile, is only mined on a small scale. 

Here’s a look at the 10 largest ilmenite and rutile producers in 2021:

Country2023E titanium minerals production
(tonnes of titanium dioxide content)
% of Total
China 🇨🇳 3,100,00034%
Mozambique 🇲🇿 1,583,00017%
South Africa 🇿🇦 1,082,00012%
Australia 🇦🇺 600,0007%
Canada 🇨🇦 492,0006%
Norway 🇳🇴 430,0006%
Ukraine 🇺🇦 108,0001%
Senegal 🇸🇳 342,0004%
Madagascar 🇲🇬 320,0003%
Kenya 🇰🇪 195,0002%
Other 🌍 448,0006%
Total (rounded)9,200,000100%

China takes up the lion’s share of titanium mineral production at 34%. It produces two times as much of the minerals as Mozambique, the second-largest producer. Meanwhile, the U.S. has an annual production of 197,000 tonnes.

Besides titanium mineral extraction, China also dominates the next stage of the supply chain with 66% of global titanium sponge production:

CountryTitanium sponge production (tonnes)% of Total
China 🇨🇳216,00066.46%
Japan 🇯🇵59,00018.15%
Russia 🇷🇺20,0006.15%
Kazakhstan 🇰🇿14,0004.31%
Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦12,0003.69%
U.S.* 🇺🇸5000.15%
India 🇮🇳2900.09%
World Total (Rounded)325,000100.00%

*Represents production capacity for high purity specialty sponge, not available for commercial applications.

As a result of the lack of domestic production, the U.S. is now heavily reliant on foreign sources of titanium.

Short Supply: Titanium in the U.S.

Around 90% of U.S. titanium consumption is met by net imports.

The U.S. uses titanium metal in various sectors, including defense, aerospace, electronics, and transport. With the demand for titanium projected to grow, a domestic titanium supply chain can help the U.S. become independent of imports. 

IperionX is a U.S. metals technology company focused on developing the world’s first 100% recycled, low-cost, low-carbon titanium supply chain. 

Interested in learning more about IperionX’s titanium production technology? Click to learn more.

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