Mineral Resource of the Month: Talc

Talc, a mineral mined in more than 40 countries, is distributed and used worldwide. Robert Virta, talc commodity specialist, and Brad Van Gosen, talc resource specialist, for the U.S. Geological Survey, prepared the following information about the talc industry.

Talc can be white, apple green, dark green or brown, depending on its composition. Credit: USGS; right: Mineral Information Institute. Talc can be white, apple green, dark green or brown, depending on its composition. Credit: USGS; right: Mineral Information Institute.

When people think of talc, they often think of talcum and baby powder. However, these uses of talc are minor compared to its use in industrial manufacturing. The leading use of talc in the United States is in the production of ceramics, where it is a source of magnesium oxide, serves as a flux to reduce firing temperatures, and improves thermal shock characteristics of the final product. Worldwide, the major use of talc is as a paper constituent, where it fills the interstices between cellulose paper fibers, reduces paper transparency, improves ink receptivity, and absorbs undesirable tree sap residues that can generate blemishes in the paper.

Talc is a hydrous silicate composed of magnesium, silica (silicon and oxygen) and water that is relatively pure in composition but can contain small amounts of aluminum, iron, manganese and titanium. The physical and chemical properties that make talc commercially useful include chemical inertness, fragrance retention, high dielectric strength, high thermal conductivity, low electrical conductivity, luster, moisture content, oil and grease adsorption, purity, softness and whiteness.

In addition to ceramic and paper applications, talc is used to manufacture cosmetics, paint, plastics, roofing, rubber and a variety of other products. Some specific products that contain talc include the ceramic substrate of automobile catalytic converters, wire and cable insulation, auto body putty, asphalt shingles, window caulk, wallboard joint compound, pharmaceutical tablets, chewing gum, candy, gaskets, hoses, vinyl flooring and siding and, of course, baby and body powders. Talc also is used in agricultural applications as a chemical carrier for herbicides and pesticides and as a fruit-dusting agent.

For more information on talc and other mineral resources, visit http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals.


Fun facts

The word “talc” likely derived from the Arabic word for mica, “talk,” acknowledging the mineral’s mica-like flakes.

Talc was used by the ancient Egyptians to carve scarabs and amulets; by the Assyrians to make cylinder seals and signets; and by Native Americans to form bowls, pots, cooking stoves and other utensils.

Talc is one of the oldest and most widely used cosmetic ingredients, dating to Egyptian times.

The white coating on some chewing gum and candy products is talc, which prevents it from sticking to the wrapper.


Talc production and consumption

In 2012, the United States produced 515,000 metric tons of talc valued at $17 million, with Montana leading production, followed by Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

World production of crude talc ore in 2012 was estimated at about 7.4 million metric tons.

China was the leading global talc producer (2.2 million metric tons), followed by India, the United States, Finland and France.

U.S. markets for talc, excluding imports, were ceramics (25 percent), paper (22 percent), paint (19 percent), roofing (9 percent), plastics (8 percent), cosmetics and rubber (3 percent each) and other (11 percent). Global markets for talc were paper (34 percent), plastics (23 percent), ceramics (15 percent), paint (12 percent) and other (16 percent).

Energy Notes: October 2012-2013

Credit: The American Geosciences Institute. Credit: The American Geosciences Institute.

U.S. Oil & Petroleum Imports (million of barrels per day)

Oil and petroleum imports data are preliminary numbers taken from the American Petroleum Institute’s Monthly Statistical Report. For more information visit www.api.org.

 

 

The American Geosciences Institute

AGI was founded in 1948, under a directive of the National Academy of Sciences, as a network of associations representing geoscientists with a diverse array of skills and knowledge of our planet.

Monday, March 3, 2014 - 06:00

U.S. Geological Survey

The "Mineral Resource of the Month" column is written by various U.S. Geological Survey mineral commodity specialists. For more information about these and other mineral commodities, visit: USGS Commodity Statistics and Information.

Monday, March 3, 2014 - 06:00

Did you know ...

EARTH only uses professional science journalists and scientists to author our content?  In this era of fake news and click-bait, EARTH offers factual and researched journalism. But EARTH is a non-profit magazine, and at least 10 times more people read EARTH than pay for it. As advertising revenues across the media decline, we need your help to ensure that we can continue bringing you the reliable and well-written coverage of earth science you know and love. Our goal is not only to inform our readers, but to inform decision makers across the economic and political spectrum about the science of our planet. So, we need your help. By becoming a subscriber or making a tax-deductible contribution to support EARTH, you can fund our writers and help make sure the world knows about our planet.

Make a contribution

Subscribe