Ilmenite, also known as Manaccanite, is the titanium-iron oxide mineral with the idealized formula FeTiO
. It is a weakly magnetic black or steel-gray solid. From the commercial perspective, ilmenite is the most important ore of titanium.[4] Ilmenite is the main source of titanium dioxide, which is used in paints, fabrics, plastics, paper, sunscreen, food and cosmetics.[5]

Structure and properties

Ilmenite crystallizes in the trigonal system. The ilmenite crystal structure consists of an ordered derivative of the corundum structure; in corundum all cations are identical but in ilmenite Fe2+ and Ti4+ ions occupy alternating layers perpendicular to the trigonal c axis. Containing high spin ferrous centers, ilmenite is paramagnetic.

Ilmenite is commonly recognized in altered igneous rocks by the presence of a white alteration product, the pseudo-mineral leucoxene. Often ilmenites are rimmed with leucoxene, which allows ilmenite to be distinguished from magnetite and other iron-titanium oxides. The example shown in the image at right is typical of leucoxene-rimmed ilmenite.

In reflected light it may be distinguished from magnetite by more pronounced reflection pleochroism and a brown-pink tinge.

Samples of ilmenite exhibit a weak response to a hand magnet.


In 1791 William Gregor discovered ilmenite, in a stream that runs through the valley just south of the village of Manaccan (Cornwall), and identified for the first time Titanium as one of the constituent of ilmenite.

Mineral chemistry

Ilmenite from Froland, Aust-Agder, Norway; 4.1 x 4.1 x 3.8 cm

Ilmenite most often contains appreciable quantities of magnesium and manganese and the full chemical formula can be expressed as (Fe,Mg,Mn,Ti)O3. Ilmenite forms a solid solution with geikielite (MgTiO
) and pyrophanite (MnTiO
) which are magnesian and manganiferous end-members of the solid solution series.

Although there appears evidence of the complete range of mineral chemistries in the (Fe,Mg,Mn,Ti)O3 system naturally occurring on Earth, the vast bulk of ilmenites are restricted to close to the ideal FeTiO
composition, with minor mole percentages of Mn and Mg. A key exception is in the ilmenites of kimberlites where the mineral usually contains major amounts of geikielite molecules, and in some highly differentiated felsic rocks ilmenites may contain significant amounts of pyrophanite molecules.

At higher temperatures it has been demonstrated there is a complete solid solution between ilmenite and hematite. There is a miscibility gap at lower temperatures, resulting in a coexistence of these two minerals in rocks but no solid solution. This coexistence may result in exsolution lamellae in cooled ilmenites with more iron in the system than can be homogeneously accommodated in the crystal lattice.

Altered ilmenite forms the mineral leucoxene, an important source of titanium in heavy mineral sands ore deposits. Leucoxene is a typical component of altered gabbro and diorite and is generally indicative of ilmenite in the unaltered rock.


Tellnes opencast ilmenite mine, Sokndal, Norway

Ilmenite is a common accessory mineral found in metamorphic and igneous rocks. It is found in large concentrations in layered intrusions where it forms as part of a cumulate layer within the silicate stratigraphy of the intrusion. Ilmenite generally occurs within the pyroxenitic portion of such intrusions (the 'pyroxene-in' level).

Magnesian ilmenite is indicative of kimberlitic paragenesis and forms part of the MARID association of minerals (mica-amphibole-rutile-ilmenite-diopside) assemblage of glimmerite xenoliths. Manganiferous ilmenite is found in granitic rocks and also in carbonatite intrusions where it may also contain anomalous niobium.

Many mafic igneous rocks contain grains of intergrown magnetite and ilmenite, formed by the oxidation of ulvospinel. Ilmenite also occurs as discrete grains, typically with some hematite in solid solution, and complete solid solution exists between the two minerals at temperatures above about 950 °C.

Titanium was identified for the first time by William Gregor in 1791 in ilmenite from the Manaccan valley in Cornwall, southwest England.

Ilmenite is named after the locality of its discovery in the Ilmensky Mountains, near Miass, Russia.

Processing and consumption

Most ilmenite is mined for titanium dioxide production.[6] In 2011, about 47% of the titanium dioxide produced worldwide were based on this material.[7] Finely ground titanium dioxide is a bright white powder widely used as a base pigment in paint, paper and plastics. Metallic Titanium can be easily derived from it for uses such as aircraft and high-strength steel devices.

North America and Europe together consume about 50% of the world's titanium dioxide production. Demand by India and China is growing rapidly and may eventually surpass Western consumption.

Various ilmenite feedstock grades[8]
Feedstock TiO
Ore <55 Sulfate
Ore >55 Chloride
Ore <50 Smelting (slag)
Synthetic rutile 88-95 Chloride
Chloride slag 85-95 Chloride
Sulfate slag 80 Sulfate

Ilmenite is ultimately converted into pigment grade titanium dioxide via either the sulfate process or the chloride process. Sulfate process plants must utilise low-vanadium ilmenite, as vanadium is a penalty element. Titanium dioxide pigment can also be produced from higher titanium content feedstocks such as upgraded slag, rutile and leucoxene via a chloride acid process. Sulfate and chloride process pigment tends to be used for lower and higher quality applications respectively, users more and more preferring the chloride process. The five largest TiO
pigment processors are Dupont, Cristal Global, Huntsman, Kronos and Tronox, Dupont having pioneered the chloride process in the 1960s and having converted to the use of the chloride process for all its applications.[9] Major paint and coating company end users for pigment grade titanium dioxide include Akzo Nobel, PPG Industries, Sherwin Williams, BASF, Kansai Paints and Valspar.[10] Global TiO
pigment demand for 2010 was 5.3 Mt with annual growth expected to be about 3-4%.[11]

Most ilmenite ore production from Canada, South Africa and Norway is destined for titaniferous slag application.[12] Carbon (anthracite) and energy are added in large electric arc smelting furnaces to convert the ilmenite into molten iron bath and slag rich in titanium dioxide. The iron can be further processed as pig iron, as continuous cast steel billets, or as iron or steel powders. A related chemically process technology is termed the Becher process.

Ilmenite ore is used as a flux by steelmakers to line blast furnace hearth refractory.[13]

Ilmenite sand is also used as a sandblasting agent in the cleaning of diecasting dies.


Ilmenite is an ingredient in the manufacture of the ferrotitanium[14] and ferro-carbon-titanium[15] alloys.

Feedstock production

Estimated contained TiO
(Metric tpa x 1,000,
ilmenite & rutile)
Year 2011 2012-13
Country USGS Projected
Australia 1,300 247
South Africa 1,161 190
Mozambique 516 250
Canada 700
India 574
China 500
Vietnam 490
Ukraine 357
Senegal - 330
Norway 300
United States 300
Madagascar 288
Kenya - 246
Sri Lanka 62
Sierra Leone 60
Brazil 48
Other countries 37
Total world ~6,700 ~1,250

Australia was the world's largest ilmenite ore producer in 2011, with about 1.3 million tonnes of production, followed by South Africa, Canada, Mozambique, India, China, Vietnam, Ukraine, Norway, Madagascar and United States.

Although most ilmenite is recovered from heavy mineral sands ore deposits, ilmenite can also be recovered from layered intrusive sources or "hard rock" titanium ore sources.

The top four ilmenite and rutile feedstock producers in 2010 were Rio Tinto Group, Iluka Resources, Exxaro and Kenmare Resources, which collectively accounted for more than 60% of world's supplies.[10]

The world's two largest open cast ilmenite mines are:

  • The Tellnes mine located in Sokndal, Norway, and run by Titania AS (owned by Kronos Worldwide Inc.) with 0.55 Mtpa capacity and 57 Mt contained TiO
  • The Rio Tinto Group's Lac Tio mine located near Havre Saint-Pierre, Quebec in Canada with a 3 Mtpa capacity and 52 Mt reserves.[17]

Major mineral sands based ilmenite mining operations include:

Attractive major potential ilmenite deposits include:

  • The Karhujupukka magnetite-ilmenite deposit in Kolari, northern Finland with around 5 Mt reserves and ore containing about 6.2% titanium.
  • The Balla Balla magnetite-iron-titanium-vanadium ore deposit in the Pilbara of Western Australia, which contains 456 million tonnes of cumulate ore horizon grading 45% Fe, 13.7% TiO
    and 0.64% V
    , one of the richest magnetite-ilmenite ore bodies in Australia[19]
  • The Coburn, WIM 50, Douglas, Pooncarie mineral sands deposits in Australia.
  • The Magpie titano-magnetite (iron-titanium-vanadium-chrome) deposits in eastern Quebec of Canada with about 1 billion tonnes containing about 43% Fe, 12% TiO2, 0.4% V2O5, and 2.2% Cr2O3.
  • The Longnose deposit in Northeast Minnesota is considered to be "the largest and richest ilmenite deposit in North America."[20]

Lunar ilmenite

Ilmenite has been found in Moon rocks,[21] and is typically highly enriched in magnesium similar to the kimberlitic association. In 2005[22] NASA used the Hubble Space Telescope to locate potentially ilmenite-rich locations. This mineral could be essential to an eventual Moon base, as ilmenite would provide a source of iron and titanium for the building of structures and essential oxygen extraction.


  1. ^ Webmineral data
  2. ^ Mineral Handbook
  3. ^ Ilmenite on Mindat.org
  4. ^ Heinz Sibum, Volker Günther, Oskar Roidl, Fathi Habashi, Hans Uwe Wolf, "Titanium, Titanium Alloys, and Titanium Compounds" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry 2005, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a27_095
  5. ^ "Products". Mineral Commodities Ltd. Retrieved 2016-08-08. 
  6. ^ "Industry Fundamentals". Mineral Commodities Ltd. Retrieved 2016-08-08. 
  7. ^ Market Study Titanium Dioxide, published by Ceresana, February 2013
  8. ^ a b Hayes (2011), p. 5
  9. ^ Hayes, Tony (2011). "Titanium Dioxide: A Shining Future Ahead" (PDF). Euro Pacific Canada. p. 5. Retrieved 16 Aug 2012. [permanent dead link]
  10. ^ a b Hayes (2011), p. 3
  11. ^ Hayes (2011), p. 4
  12. ^ "Mineral Commodity Summary: Titanium Mineral Concentrates" (PDF). USGS: 175. 2012. 
  13. ^ "Rio Tinto, Fer et Titane - Products". Rio Tinto Group. Retrieved 19 Aug 2012. 
  14. ^ Gasik, Michael (editor) (2013). Handbook of Ferroalloys: Theory and Technology. London: Elsevier. p. 429. ISBN 978-0-08-097753-9. 
  15. ^ Baughman, Will (1927). "The Utilzation and Metallurgy of Titanium". In Root, Lloyd L. Report XXIII of The State Mineralogist covering Mining in California and the Activities of The State Mining Bureau. San Francisco: California State Mining Bureau. p. 300. 
  16. ^ USGS 2012 Survey, p. 174
  17. ^ "Lac Tio Mine". InfoMine. Retrieved 16 Aug 2012. 
  18. ^ "TiZir Limited". Mineral Deposits Limited. Archived from the original on 2012-08-18. Retrieved 16 Aug 2012. 
  19. ^ http://www.australianminesatlas.gov.au/aimr/commodity/vanadium.html
  20. ^ Kraker, Dan. "Titanium Range? Breakthrough could lead to new kind of mining in NE Minn". Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  21. ^ Bhanoo, Sindya N. (28 December 2015). "New Type of Rock Is Discovered on Moon". New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2015. 
  22. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4177064.stm How to set up a moonbase. NASA