South Africa’s titanium industry to be worth R5 billion by 2020, with a focus on Ti powder

February 22, 2012

A report on states that South Africa’s titanium industry could be worth R5 billion a year by 2020, with up to 10% of the global market, according to the South African Department of Science and Technology’s Advanced Metals Initiative and the Titanium Centre of Competence (TiCoC) at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria.

South Africa, the second largest producer of mined titanium ore, exports most of its titanium as titanium dioxide or slag, however the ambition is to increase the value of the industry by further processing the material in South Africa and developing end-user markets, including the aerospace and medical sectors. 

Dr. Willie du Preez, a coordinator at the TiCoC, told Moneyweb, “We have the raw materials, we have the market, but nothing in between and that is where the opportunity to establish a South African titanium industry lies.”

The challenge, states the report, is for South African industry to develop “a unique and alternative process of producing titanium metal”.

The powder processing of titanium was identified as the most promising route and the TiCoC has demonstrated that it can produce powdered titanium in a continuous process of up to 2kg at a time. At the end of last year contract funding of R29 million was secured from the Department of Science and Technology for a pilot plant.

After approximately a year and half to prove the viability of the process the next step will be a small commercial plant that could produce 500 tons per annum.

“Ultimately we are aiming for 20,000 tons per year capacity. If you look at the market currently new production is 250,000 tons per year, excluding the recycling of titanium, and that is growing quite significantly. So we are looking at coming in at between 5% and 10% of global market share. This is not an unreachable target,” Dr Oliver Damm, commercial and contracts coordinator at the Centre of Competence, told Moneyweb.

Edited by: Paul Whittaker, Editor, [email protected]   

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