Welcome to Heavy Metals, Proactive's weekly commodities report.
Each week, we pick one commodity and dive in – what’s been happening, where’s it headed, what factors are at play and how are markets responding?
This week we're straying from metals and digging into the mineral zeolite. So what, you may ask, is Zeolite?
You might not have heard of zeolite, but there’s a good chance you will have come across at it some point without realizing.
It is a mineral that looks a lot like light gray gravel when it is dug up from the ground. Unlike most types of gravel though, zeolite is microporous, which means it has lots of tiny holes in it. These pores allow zeolites to act as natural filters.
Zeolite is also negatively charged, whereas most toxins have a positive charge, allowing one to bind with the other.
These qualities mean zeolite lends itself to a number of useful applications, including cat litter, water filtration and as a deodorizer. One demonstration of zeolite’s ability to remove toxins is the fact it was used by Japanese authorities to help clean rivers after the Fukushima disaster.
In the 1950s, research and development on zeolite applications began in earnest. The new interest in zeolite produced commercial applications. Zeolite is now considered a mineral commodity and is used on every continent. New applications are constantly being discovered.
There are many forms of zeolite: about 40 natural zeolites have been identified during the past 200 years. One of the most prevalent and useful types is clinoptilolite zeolite.
Zeolite deposits in western Canada are few and far between
There are only a few commercially viable zeolite deposits in western Canada.
First, Progressive Planet’s Z-1 clinoptilolite zeolite quarry, which is located near Cache Creek, BC.
Progressive Planet says there is an ever-increasing demand for the mineral and the market for zeolite in the US alone was expected to surpass US$4 billion in 2018.
According to a report released this month by Grand View Research, Inc, the global natural zeolites market size is expected to reach USD $8.01 billion by 2025.
The kind of zeolite that both companies are mining, clinoptilolite zeolite, is selling for upwards of C$100 per tonne.
US has more mines, but still not many
According to the US Geological Survey, in 2017, eight companies in the US operated 11 zeolite mines and produced around 79,000 tons of natural zeolites, which is an 8% increase from 2016.
Clinoptilolite zeolite is primarily mined in California, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas. New Mexico is the leading producing state, followed by California.
The top three US zeolite companies make up approximately 85% of total domestic production in the US.
What can Zeolite be used for?
Agriculture: Zeolite has broad range of applications through the agricultural industry, ideal for use in odour and moisture control in municipal composting, animal feed supplements, greenhouse growing mediums and fertilizers. There’s also significant potential for the cannabis industry. Zeolite can help improve yield and growth while reducing the amount of nutrients wasted.
Water Treatment: Zeolite can be used as a cost-effective medium for waste-water treatment and can be used to remove ammonia, minimize runoff, and absorb odors.
Aquaculture: The natural filtration properties of zeolite can be used within aquaculture industries such as fish farming, aquariums, and transport. Zeolite can help absorb nitrates, nitrites, and phosphates.
Industry: Zeolite is used throughout a number of industrial applications such as road salt replacement, radioactive waste containment, artificial turf, and many more.
Chart of the week
International Zeolite (CVE:IZ-OTCQB:IZCFF) CEO Ray Paquette sat down with Steve Darling from Proactive Investors Vancouver to talk about their company which makes products from Zeolite, one of the most versatile minerals on the planet.
Progressive Planet Solutions Inc (CVE:PLAN) (OTCMKTS:ASHXF) recently released a corporate update, providing an update on the zeolite miner's activities. Progressive Planet is a mineral exploration company with its flagship Z1 Zeolite Quarry in BC, and a 100% interest in the Buckingham Graphite Project in Quebec.