Boron / Borates
Boron compounds – especially borates – have hundreds of applications, from smartphones to insulation materials.
Boron / Borates (B)
Pure boron does not naturally occur in its elemental state and has limited commercial uses; however, borates (inorganic boron salts containing boric oxides) have several applications. These uses include flame and scratch resistant glass, fibreglass, ceramics, and fertilisers.
Turkey dominates borate production and accounts for most known reserves; despite this high concentration of production in Turkey, demand and supply of borates are likely to remain stable over the next 20 years. The material has a generally low exposure to ESG issues; however, soil and water pollution are a problem in areas surrounding some mine sites in Turkey. The anticipated environmental impacts of open pit mines also underpin opposition to proposed projects in the United States and Serbia.
Main Uses and Attributes
Boron does not occur naturally in its elemental state but combines with other elements to form boric oxides, or borates (inorganic salts), with colemanite, kernite, ulexite and tincal accounting for 90 percent of borate sources.1https://pubs.usgs.gov/periodicals/mcs2021/mcs2021-boron.pdf Boron is a semiconductor in its pure elemental state, but as it is relatively brittle it has few commercial uses in its pure crystalline form.2https://www.britannica.com/science/boron-chemical-element However, boron compounds, particularly borates, are commercially useful and the primary focus of this profile.
According to the US Geological Survey, borates are used in more than 300 applications – most commonly in ceramics, detergents, fertilisers, and glass.3https://pubs.usgs.gov/periodicals/mcs2021/mcs2021-boron.pdf Insulation fibreglass reportedly accounts for the largest single use of borates, although borates are also a component of textiles fibreglass. In these products, borates are used as a flux and to lower glass batch melting temperatures. When borates are combined with zinc, they can be used as a flame retardant in polymers including electrical parts, car interiors and carpeting.4https://www.ima-na.org/page/what_are_borates Similarly, borosilicate glass is heat and scratch resistant and has a wide range of applications, including in industrial products and consumer goods such as cookware, smartphones, tablets and televisions.
According to the European Commission report on critical raw materials, borosilicate glasses are gaining importance in solar thermal heating in domestic and industrial technologies. In addition, glass wool, with high-performance glazing, can enable substantial energy savings from buildings.5https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/raw-materials/specific-interest/critical_en
Supply Chain Risk
TDi assesses Boron / Borates for key risks affecting the security of supply, and for its association with artisanal and small-scale mining.
Country Governance Risks
Boron / Borates's association with countries experiencing: