The global calcium carbonate (ground and precipitated) market is continuing to expand even though the rate of growth has slowed in recent years. Growth in China has been the main driver of the increase in overall global consumption but slowed from an estimated 22Mt in 2012 to 27Mt in 2015.
Factors for this included a general economic slowdown in China as well as the introduction of stricter environmental controls. There has also been a government policy of mergers, which has reduced the number of small operations in the country, particularly for the production of GCC. A number of major new producers have emerged as a consequence. Companies including Imerys, Omya and Minerals Technologies have continued to open new plants. Elsewhere, rising consumption in North America has led to capacity expansions but growth in the European market remains low.
The global paper industry remains the main market for GCC and PCC. Pulp and paper production continues to rise, reaching >406Mt in 2014, of which a rising proportion is located in China (20% in 2006 compared to 26% in 2014). Overcapacity in the global paper industry is slowly falling as producers close mills, particularly in Europe. Filler contents of printing and writing papers is continuing to rise as producers seek to offer brighter papers while reducing pulp contents.
Plastics are becoming steadily more important in terms of calcium carbonate consumption. The main use of calcium carbonate in plastics is in PVC, production of which is strongly linked to rates of construction. The prolonged expansion of the Chinese construction sector has been a major factor behind the rise in Chinese consumption of calcium carbonate over the last decade. The recovery in the US housing market after 2008 has also seen domestic production of PVC expand. Global PVC production is forecast to exceed 50Mtpy by 2020, of which almost 30Mt is expected to be in Asia.
The paint industry has also benefitted from the expansion of building in China, which has again led to an increase in the amount of calcium carbonate used in this sector. Chinese production of architectural coating grew from 3.5Mt in 2010 to an estimated 4.45Mt in 2015. Production of paints in other countries is also growing, particularly India where per capita consumption remains very low.
The use of calcium carbonate in other filler markets, such as rubber, adhesives and sealants, is also rising, particularly in China. The much smaller niche markets that include pharmaceuticals and toothpaste are also showing growth around the world.
Future global demand for calcium carbonate will continue to be strongly influenced by trends within China. Other regional markets, especially North America and South Asia, are also expected to show a substantial increase in the amount of calcium carbonate consumed.