Talc and pyrophyllite are two monoclinic minerals with similar physical properties and respective magnesium-based and aluminium-based composition, each belonging to the same sub-class of phyllosilicates. The products made on their basis are quite versatile and applicable in various areas. The major global end markets for talc include paper, plastics, ceramics, and paints, whereas pyrophyllite is mainly used in the production of electric insulators, refractories, ceramic products, and glass.
Talc: structure of the global consumption, 2014
The reserves of both minerals are sufficient, and their shortage is hardly plausible in the near future. Relative feedstock abundancy is coupled with stable and slowly growing demand. Several minerals, for instance, kaolin, can substitute talc and pyrophyllite, but such substitution need to be viable. The necessity of substitution may be grounded by ecological and health concerns. There are some concerns that the use of talc powder was responsible for several cases of ovarian cancer development. These cases are a matter of litigation and require additional studies. Naturally, the companies, which are involved in litigation, stress the safety of their products. However, the clarification of this matter is complicated by the fact that it is extremely difficult to assess talc exposure circumstances and its mineralogical nature. All parties dealing with this situation encounter with the lack of veritable epidemiologic studies and various inconsistences (e.g. unclear dose-response relationship between talc and cancer). Such inconsistencies limit the validity of many studies and may lead to spurious positive association between talc use and ovarian cancer. Pyrophyllite dust, which can affect workers during mining operations, was also a reason of concerns over possible negative health effects. Another level of influence of stringent environmental concerns and regulatory measures on talc and pyrophyllite market behaviour may include the impact of these concerns and regulation on end use sectors, including plastics, paper, paints, refractory and other sectors.
More reliable information on the talk and pyrophyllite market can be found in the topical research study “Talc and Pyrophyllite: 2016 World Market Review and Forecast”.