Disruptive Discoveries Journal

strategic metal

A Closer Look at Magnesium

Chris BerryComment

By Chris Berry (@cberry1)

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Executive Summary

As materials science continues its inexorable push forward, a closer examination of the metals and minerals which underpin scientific breakthroughs seems prudent. While there is any number to choose from, this report focuses on magnesium, commonly referred to as the “lightest useful metal” which is 75% lighter than steel and 33% lighter than aluminum.

Numerous materials have the potential to substantially impact our quality of life (for the better) in the future. Lithium, titanium, and scandium also come to mind with their potential for impact. Magnesium effectively competes for attention here and so a deeper dive into the metal is the focus of this report. Production of magnesium compounds grew at a CAGR of slightly under 6% from 2002 to 2014 according to our estimates and demand grew at a slightly faster pace. This growth rate well in excess of global GDP is a strength. That said, the growth rate has moderated somewhat with the slowdown in emerging markets. China effectively controls the global magnesium market, responsible for anywhere from 70 to 80% of production. This has everything to do with cheap and abundant labor, lax environmental standards, and inexpensive magnesium processing technologies. Given the slowdown in China’s economic growth rate which many expect to continue, excess supply of magnesium compounds (magnesia) is a looming factor to weigh against any capacity expansion. It would appear that while there is no shortage of magnesium, security of supply may be the best lens through which to view this opportunity. This report is intended to look thoroughly at the magnesium market, from its discovery, to its uses, to the market participants, to the potential growth areas.