Zr chemicals

Part of the Minchem Group of companies, Minchem Limited is a global specialist in the production and supply of zirconium chemicals for ceramics, refractories, healthcare, electronics and many other related industries

When it comes to first-hand experience of working within the ceramics and related industries, few possess the tenure of Charles Skidmore, Chairman and Managing Director of Minchem Limited. In a career spanning more than 40 years, Charles has held positions within the likes of Podmore & Sons Ltd and Rio Tinto subsidiaries, Mandoval Ltd and Zirconia Sales UK Ltd. It was the latter businesses, which would go on to work with baddeleyite/zircon sand, and zirconium chemicals, as the minerals and chemicals division of Palabora Europe Limited – a wholly owned subsidiary of Palabora Mining Co. Ltd.

It was in the year 2000 that Charles, in tandem with Trevor Slater, Minchem Limited’s Commercial Director, completed a management buyout of said minerals and chemical division. Continuing the work of the division, Minchem Limited has forged its reputation on offering a range of specialised inorganic and mineral based products – typically focused around zirconium materials – for diverse applications around the world.

These products are used in fields such as ceramics, abrasives, animal feeds, coatings, electronics, healthcare, leather tanning, paper, pharmaceuticals and refractories, to name just a few, and today, Minchem Limited has agency/distributor agreements with a number of key principals. These include, Daiichi Kigenso

Kagaku Kogyo (DKKK) Co, Ltd., Japan (producer of high purity zirconium oxides), Freeport Cobalt, Finland (cobalt salts/oxides), and Imerys Fused Minerals, China (zirconium oxides and chemicals).

The Minchem Limited we find in 2019 forms part of the larger Minchem Group, which also comprises of Minchem HMP Ltd – which specialises in the manufacture of zirconium silicate and alumina-based products – and ACCS Ltd – which is responsible for creating lining systems for protecting infrastructure against aggressive chemical environments. “Through our work with the likes of DKKK, Freeport and Imerys, Minchem Limited experienced rapid growth, and with that Trevor and myself decided that it would be good to have a manufacturing element to the business that we could control,” Charles details.

The answer to this came in the form of Hines Milling & Processing Ltd, which was formally acquired by Minchem Limited in April 2006, and subsequently christened Minchem HMP Ltd. “A processing company with milling, blending, and classifying capabilities, Minchem HMP is a well-established manufacturer of a range of products based on zircon, zirconia, alumina and other related materials, for the production of cements, paints, coatings, patches, castables and ramming compositions,” Charles continues.

The current line-up of the group was then completed in 2010, when it began the buyout process of anti-corrosion cement specialists, ACCS Ltd. By developing high quality corrosion, thermal and abrasion resistant materials, ACCS helps customers across the world that are involved in the processing and storage of acidic and alkaline materials. Since then, Charles and the rest of the team have recently decided to start up a European operation in Milan, Italy, called Minchem Europe srl, and will be the base for the group’s EU REACH registrations.

Turning to one of the most significant developments in Minchem Limited’s recent history, conversation shifts to the exclusive agreement that the company signed with Alkane Resources Ltd, an Australian gold production company with a multi-commodity exploration and development portfolio. At the heart of the company’s future operations is its world-class, construction-ready Dubbo Zirconia Project (DZP) – located 400 kilometres northwest of Sydney – which is set to become a significant producer of critical materials for advanced technologies, including strategic elements such as zirconium, rare earths (light and heavy), hafnium and niobium. It is for this project that Minchem Limited has signed an exclusive worldwide marketing, sales and distribution agreement for all zirconium materials produced, and is assisting in the marketing of the rare earths (light and heavy) and hafnium products.

“With plans to produce over 16,000 tonnes per annum of zirconium products (Zr units) from the DZP, Alkane Resources is positioned to become a major global supplier going forward, and in the process become the world’s largest producer of heavy rare earths outside of China,” Charles enthuses. “The project itself, which boasts reserves to support a mine life of over 70 years, will see Minchem Limited moving highly sought after products all over the world. What makes this all the more impressive is that the zirconium is derived from a non-Chinese source, not beneficiated from zirconium silicate (zircon), possesses a very low level of radioactivity, and sits within an easily accessible ore body in a politically stable country.”

The company’s work with Alkane Resources will be one of several topics that it looks forward to discussing with visitors to The Advanced Materials Show/Ceramics UK 2019, ukwhere Minchem Group will be exhibiting in July. “As well as our relationship with Alkane’s DZP, we also look forward to promoting more of the products and services that Minchem Group provide. Such as, for Minchem Limited the high purity zirconium oxides used in dental and fine ceramics, for Minchem HMP the range of specialist zircon grades for shell and core investment casting, and for ACCS assisting clients in achieving greater environmental compliance for their chemical processes,” Trevor reveals.

In summary, Trevor points out one other important benefit of shows like The Advanced Materials Show/Ceramics UK. “As a business that operates in a fairly niche market environment, events such as this present us with a fantastic opportunity to discuss at greater length the different solutions that Minchem Group can offer, and to interact with not only our existing customer base, but potential new leads as well!”

Minchem Limited
Products: Zirconium, zircon, cobalt and specialised inorganic chemicals
www.minchem.co.uk